Six Sisters Succeeding on Their Own Journeys
The six Dunn sisters are all Women of Mercy. Their journeys span decades, they are as different as night and day, but all have at least one thing in common—their love of Mercy High School and the impact the institution has had on their lives. All of them acknowledge how important acceptance, as a fundamental value of the school, shaped their personal growth.
The Dunn story begins with Kaylea Dunn ’96, the first sister to attend Mercy from 1992-1996. She visited several high schools but when she came to Mercy “it felt like home away from home.”
The eldest Dunn daughter admits to being somewhat of an introvert but she “blossomed” at the school. She was involved in choir, theatre and dance and was selected to attend All-State Choir her senior year. She also was Mother McAuley at the annual Mercy Day celebration, an honor she is still proud of today. Kaylea also learned about the call to service, a value that she carries within and uses to frame the choices she makes to this day.
Kaylea graduated from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (UNL) with a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration and Masters of Science in Leadership Education. She worked at UNL in the Admissions Office and then the College of Engineering until she started a family and changed jobs. For the past 10 years she has worked at Olsson Associates, an Engineering Consulting Company in Lincoln, Nebraska. As a Human Resources Specialist she works in the field of talent development.
Never losing her love of service and community, she works on the company’s community foundation providing support to various causes in the Lincoln area. She has been a volunteer for Junior Achievement and is active in her church and her children’s school’s marketing committee.
Serving as a member of the Alumnae Council has also been very fulfilling and she participates in many of the activities.
“I am so thankful for my Mercy experience, and would encourage others to reflect back on the impact Mercy had on their lives, and pay it forward to future generations by becoming more involved through giving their time, talent or treasure,” she said.
Sarah Dunn ’98 continued the family tradition. Music became her pathway as the talented singer was active in theatre and music and studied voice with Sr. Catherine Marie Franey. She also took French with Sr. Marilyn Wallace, participated in Speech one year, ran Cross Country for four years with Coach Sr. Jeanne O’Rourke, became active in Amnesty International, and helped out with Operation Others.
“ The school had a tremendous impact on me—especially in terms of social development and fostering core values with a keen awareness of the importance of community service,” she said.
Sarah took a musical path in college, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Music and Theatre from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. From there, she attended Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts and graduated with a Masters in Music in Vocal Performance. She also studied abroad and completed pedagogical studies at the Kodály Institute in Kecskemét, Hungary.
Currently, Sarah lives and works in Rhode Island. She is the soprano soloist at the First Baptist Church in America in Providence, a cantor at St. Mary’s Church in Newport, and teaches voice at Rhode Island Philharmonic Music School in East Providence, and at the New England Music Studio in Pawtucket. She recently joined the voice faculty at Salve Regina University in Newport. She performs in New York City, Boston and throughout New England in concerts and regional theatre productions and with a local musical theatre improv group in Providence as well.
“Salve Regina University is a Mercy institution. It is a delight to work in place that was started by the same order, the Sisters of Mercy, which gave me such a wonderful education. I feel like I have somehow come full circle and am able to give back to the tradition of education that has meant so much to me,” she added.
Following in the footsteps of her older siblings, Michaela Dunn’00 enjoyed many of the activities at Mercy but the influence of her debate coach, Sr. Rosemary Floresch, stays with her today.
“She helped to build my confidence, my communication and interpersonal skills, my ability to think critically and to seek to understand before being understood, “ she said.
After graduating from the University of Northern Iowa in 2005 with a Master’s in Social Work she landed in the United Kingdom and has been working there for 11 years as a Children and Families Social Worker. As such, she works with families from of a broad spectrum of needs, culture and family structure. She is also a Teaching Consultant with Goldsmiths, University of London, providing input within the Social Work Bachelor and Masters programs.
“I think Mercy helped to form my strong convictions in social justice, which I continue through my social work practice, handling my roles with a humane, compassionate, and nurturing approach,” she said.
Sister Regina Dunn Caffrey ’02 really wanted to attend Mercy after she watched the traditions of Mercy practiced by her sisters and the fun they experienced.
A natural athlete she participated in basketball and cross country but she was exposed to art and singing which help her try things that were outside her norm like auditioning for Show Choir her junior year.
“ I love that at Mercy you have friends from all walks of life. You don’t just have to stick to sports or the arts; you could be whomever you wanted to be,” she said.
That spirit of adventure has extended to her collegiate life. She graduated in 2006 from the Coast Guard Academy and has been stationed all over the country. She is pursing an advanced degree in medicine and physician assistant studies from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and will graduate in February 2017.
“ Mercy has affected my approach as a student in the physician assistant program. I am most drawn to women’s health and feel a special drive to serve women, which I believe was imparted to me from my days at Mercy. So many people join forces to make sure a Mercy Girl is educated, supported and encouraged; I am thankful to everyone from my Mercy days for that,” she added.
She keeps active with alumnae events and would encourage Mercy graduates to stay connected via social media and the Mercy website.
“ I think that I realize that more and more as I get older, Mercy doesn’t happen by the good graces of all who are involved, it also happens because of the financial investments, whether by dollars or time. I would encourage more graduates, family, friends and community partners to invest in similar ways to ensure another generation of six girls from the same family can benefit from all Mercy has to offer! ”she said.
Andrea Dunn ’08 also was very involved in music and theater at Mercy including Mercy High Singers and making All-State Choir as a junior. She credits the guidance and knowledge shown by her music teacher, Stacie Haneline and Theatre teacher, Angela Dashner, to help her earn an arts degree at college. She is also an avid equestrian.
Graduating with a Bachelors of Music from Western Illinois University, she is involved with several local cover bands. She also is the Student and Events Coordinator at the University of Nebraska at Omaha bookstore.
“ I was really able to come out of my shell at Mercy. There was a feeling of acceptance and the thought ‘you can be yourself’ that has helped me tremendously in my current career,” she added.
Also gravitating towards the arts is Elizabeth Dunn’10. She was involved in nearly every theatrical production at the school. At the same time she was in Student Council, the National Honor Society, Mercy High Singers, Show Choir, Speech Team, and Student Ambassadors.
“ I am extremely grateful that I engaged in extracurricular activities. It is a trait that has endured well beyond Mercy. The school encouraged my talents and creative pursuits,” she said.
She attended Benedictine University in Chicago for two years transferring to Western Illinois University and graduating in 2015. Elizabeth earned a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts in Printmaking and a Bachelor’s in English Literature. She recently moved back to Omaha after residing in Newport, Rhode Island where she was part of the Artist Residency Program with AS220, an artist-run organization committed to providing an unjuried and uncensored forum for the arts.
“Mercy has fostered within me a love of the human story. I remember being ‘required’ to volunteer, but soon it turned from a chore to a pleasure. At the root of those experiences was curiosity, a need to know others stories/experiences. My education at Mercy and exposure to many different walks of life has created within me a life-long sentiment—the want to learn, help, love, and grow with others,” she added.
All six sisters agree that Mercy has brought a sense of self, personal pride, acceptance and the firm belief that following your own path and journey can have positive outcomes. They hope others will take advantage of what a Mercy education has to offer.
Pictured left to right back row are : Elizabeth Dunn’10, Andrea Dunn ’08, Michaela Dunn ’00, and Sarah Dunn ’98. From row left to right are Kaylea Dunn ’96 and Regina Dunn Caffrey ’02.