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Elijah Conniff – Senior Spotlight

Eli’s Pathway to Penn—Milton Hershey School senior shares his story of inspiration and hope to the Ivy League

Elijah Conniff’s unstable life got a little steadier on January 20, 2009. That was the day he stepped onto the campus of Milton Hershey School for the first time. For so many students at Milton Hershey School, the date of their enrollment is one they will never forget. It’s the beginning of a new chapter, a new journey, and for Eli, a new lifestyle.

“The reality of it didn’t hit me right away that I wouldn’t be living with my parents every day,” Eli said.

The timid fourth grader enrolled from Dormont, a small borough within the city limits of Pittsburgh. The borough was established in 1909—just like Milton Hershey School. And though Dormont was the only home Eli had ever known, he would soon call Milton Hershey School his new home.

“Milton Hershey School means having a second chance,” Eli said. “We all come from circumstances that are less than ideal, but Milton Hershey School gives us the second chance through scholarships, the beautiful buildings, and most importantly, the people we get to meet, to redefine where we’re going to end up in life.”

Elijah Conniff in a hallway.

Making His Own Mark

At MHS, Eli caught up on his academics while being able to be a “kid.” He didn’t have to worry about having a warm meal on the table, clothing, or any number of burdens poverty can cause for a young person.

“I can definitely say, without any degree of doubt, that coming to Milton Hershey School is the best decision my parents could have ever made for me,” Eli said.

By high school, Eli would really make his mark. He advanced in his studies as one of the top students in his class, created his own nonprofit and collected books to provide to lower income children, played on the school’s soccer team, and led the school as president of the Student Government Association.

“It was a dream come true knowing that the hard work I’ve put in and the sacrifices my family has made all paid off,” Eli said. “I know I’ll have more opportunities beyond Milton Hershey School.”

Pathway to Penn

Eli will enroll at the Wharton School for Business at the University of Pennsylvania next fall.

“We don’t come to Milton Hershey School to stay here forever. We come to Milton Hershey School so we can learn, so we can grow, so we can have opportunities that we take advantage of, but then so we can go to the next level, so we can use our circumstances to inspire others, and so we can continue to give back the way we were given at Milton Hershey School,” Eli said.

Milton Hershey School strives to provide all students every possible tool to ensure their success in life beyond MHS. Through advanced placement courses, the ability to earn college credits prior to graduation, or working in their field of interest to gain valuable experiences, there are multiple paths students can create for themselves to build a better outcome.

Speaking at the Founders Feast.

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. View full Equal Opportunity Policy.