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Day 1 at Milton Hershey School

By Lisa Scullin, MHS Vice President of Communications

I remember my first day working at Milton Hershey School. It was April 2, 2012. The job was media relations manager, and I wasn’t sure whether that first day feeling in my stomach signaled fear or excitement. Uncertainty grew as I stepped on to campus. Regardless of the many times I had started a new job, this one felt different.

When I turned 14, a worker’s permit opened doors to everything from being a receptionist—at a beauty school and a motorcycle parts dealership (!)—to just about any role that needed to be filled at a nearby restaurant. These jobs helped me pay for college in our nation’s capital, where I continued to work. From the shopping mall one metro stop away from American University’s campus to the White House and United States Capitol where internships opened my eyes to how government worked. Then on to newsrooms up and down the east coast. I thought I had experienced everything.

But nothing quite matched what was waiting for me at MHS. What if I wasn’t ready to shoulder the responsibility of promoting a mission that meant so much to so many?

You might be asking yourself why I’m sharing my Day 1 fears and uncertainty as we start a new school year. It took me nearly a decade to figure it out myself. Roger Smith ’85 summed it up perfectly at our 2022 Opening of School Assembly that focused on Day 1 … Day WON.

Roger said, “Open your hands up so you can receive the gift that is MHS.”

Opening up can be scary. So is living up to high expectations. It opens you up to being hurt, criticized, or letting people down. But the relationships and support you can get at MHS if you do are worth more than any paycheck or opportunity to rub elbows with Washington, D.C. powerbrokers.

Bonds with houseparents, teachers, coaches, mentors, alumni, and classmates are a lifelong gift. My relationships with mentees and colleagues have a value beyond measure. Sometimes, the demands can feel immeasurable too. But with open hands, mind, and heart it is inevitable that you will grow beyond what you ever imagined.

At our assembly on Aug. 15, President Pete Gurt ‘85 told us that “MHS has the potential to change your life forever.”

Milton Hershey School President Pete Gurt '85 addresses the crowd.

Everyone—students, staff, and alumni—who bravely took the stage and shared their own wisdom on Day 1 opened up and showed this to be true. Aug. 15 brought us all together again to share the values and hope on which this community was built 114 years ago. Students and staff alike inspire one another to grow, to take the wins and losses, and keep pushing forward. To me, that’s what Day 1 … Day WON is all about.

Ten years after accepting my first position at MHS, I say with certainty that it was the best decision I ever made—despite the initial uncertainty and challenges my job still brings. I wouldn’t know if I hadn’t pushed forward with an open mind and heart.

I had the opportunity to meet some of our newest students this week at an MHS Enrollment Day—they looked ready. The tiny boy in seersucker and his big sister in her matching sun dress were the image of South Carolina sophistication. I wondered what they were thinking and feeling on their Day 1. Excitement? Fear? All that and so much more I can only imagine. Their grandfather’s hope for their success and wellbeing was clear. I hope they love it here. I hope they learn and grow in ways their family never thought possible. I hope someday they harness both fear and excitement equally and use them to their advantage.

Whether you’re a student or employee, new or not, I wonder about your Day 1 at MHS and how you seize both opportunities and challenges. As the vision of our founders takes hold, will you open your other hand to take someone along with you? To me, that sounds like the perfect way to make Day 1 … Day WON.

Milton Hershey School does not discriminate in admissions or other programs and services on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, sex, religious creed or disability. Read important MHS policies on equal opportunity and diversity, equal employment opportunity, and more.