Milton Hershey School Compass Project Guides Moral Development
By Ododo Walsh ’98, Senior Director of Home Life Services
In today’s rapidly changing world, academic excellence alone is not enough to prepare students for success. To succeed in a complex and interconnected society, students must develop several key abilities. These abilities include social-emotional skills, strong character attributes, the capability to demonstrate respect, and a strong work ethic. The Compass Project is how MHS intentionally grows these key abilities.
The Compass Project’s foundation is based on Milton Hershey School’s four Sacred Values-Commitment to Mission, Integrity, Positive Spirit, and Mutual Respect. The MHS Sacred Values are rooted in our school’s founding. Milton S. Hershey valued loyalty, honesty, respect, and integrity. He expected students and employees to uphold these values. MHS staff and students are honored to carry out Mr. Hershey’s wishes in order to create a kinder world.
The Compass Project was intentionally designed nine years ago to equip students of all grade levels with the tools they need to become caring and compassionate individuals. Lessons were initially facilitated through monthly experiential lessons led by houseparents. This created opportunities to imbed the learnings throughout the month. Social-Emotional Learning skills were also taught in the academic setting.
The Compass Project Guides Breakthroughs
Over the course of the 2023-2024 school year, there is an emphasis on enhancing growth in key social-emotional learning areas of self-management, social awareness and emotional regulation. Therefore, weekly lessons are facilitated through explicit teaching in student homes on Sundays with continued learning throughout the week. Lessons are also reinforced in the academic setting and by other adults across campus.
Each week’s lesson teaches the specific steps of a skill and offers a rationale for why it is important. Some of the skills taught include how to follow directions, how to stay focused, how to stay calm, and how to disagree appropriately.
Throughout the week, houseparents use naturally occurring situations to praise students for demonstrating the skills. Moreover, houseparents provide corrective teaching when it is not being demonstrated. The weekly skill is also reinforced in school, through devotions, and by adults across campus. Students are hearing familiar terms on a consistent basis which increases their learning.
When students develop key abilities, they will become more focused academically. They will be motivated to set goals and work hard to achieve them. The Compass Project guides students to better handle stress and manage conflict, which will strengthen relationships and create a stronger MHS community. The development of social-emotional skills, strong character attributes, the capacity to demonstrate respect and a strong work ethic are abilities that are key to all MHS students achieving a Breakthrough Year!