Skip to content

Words of Wisdom and Keys to Success for Commencement

As Milton Hershey School prepares for the Class of 2016’s Commencement – the biggest in school history – our seniors are making decisions on colleges, careers, and future goals.

To help students stay motivated and reflect on the values they learned at MHS, several valedictorians and salutatorians from the past 30 years shared their advice for achieving success and lifelong happiness.

See how these alumni continue to live out the MHS Sacred Values as they pursue their goals:

Growth Mindset and Positive Spirit

“Be open to where your higher education or career path takes you – what you believe to be the best choice might not be the one you have to take. Some of my proudest accomplishments resulted from “second choice” outcomes. College is also what you make of it. Find a rhythm that works for you, and never forget the main objective: to get the education and the experience you need to further your career.” – Jesse Rabbits ’09, Valedictorian

“Don’t rush and make decisions because of pressure from others. Take the time to really get quiet and listen to yourself, look at your life and let it speak to you. Deep down, you already know what you love and what major or career will bring you joy. Once you find [your passion], don’t be afraid to go for it.” – Holly Dancy ’10, Valedictorian

“Position yourself to have the best chance of success by continually learning and developing valuable skills that put you ahead of the pack, finding a mentor that can provide you with developmental guidance, and building your professional network by getting to know influential people outside of your immediate group.” – Ken Erdley ’85, Valedictorian

Self-Sufficiency and Grit

“Each and every one of my successes has been the result of hard work. There will be sleepless nights studying, grueling days working, and times when you might regret your choice. They will be worth it in the end. Give yourself short-term goals and work toward them. After a while, those small goals will help you reach the big ones … I was successful at MHS because I wanted to prove that I could better my circumstances. The world hasn’t granted us a silver platter. Take what you’ve been given and prove to the world that you were worth it. The sweetest success is that which you’ve created on your own.” – Jesse Rabbits ’09, Valedictorian

“Never forget the infinite power and potential that exists within you. There may be times when you don’t think you can do it, times when you’re afraid of the next step, times when you don’t even know what the next step is, and times when you may end up taking a few steps back. No matter the circumstance, always remember that you are the author of your own destiny. What you envision and dream, you have the power to manifest.” – Holly Dancy ’10, Valedictorian

Well-Being and Commitment

“When choosing a college major or a career, think beyond obvious considerations such as how much money you want to make or whether you have the ability to do the work and be successful. Think about how your choice could affect your life outside of school or work. Make sure you talk to people who have gone down the same career path and find out what impact their chosen profession has had on their lives. If you want to have a family, pets, hobbies or other adventures outside of school or work, make sure you choose a career that provides not only the financial means to pursue those endeavors, but the time to enjoy life as well.” – Ken Erdley ’85, Valedictorian

“The best advice I can give is to be true to yourself, avoid negative influences, stay the course and don’t let others sway you from your goal. It can be done! As the first female valedictorian of MHS and first college graduate in my family, I can tell you that hard work does pay off. I owe my success to MHS.”- Connie Lee Crismond ’83, Valedictorian

Social Intelligence and Mutual Respect

“Be proud of yourself and grateful that you made it to graduation. I know it seems scary, but this is your chance to live your life and go after your dreams. Believe in yourself, and believe that you can have whatever you desire – you just need to know what you want. It takes time so don’t get frustrated if you can’t figure it out right away. I changed my major twice until I was happy. Life is a journey, and you’ll find your way eventually. Most importantly, always be grateful. The best way to get through the storms of life is to be grateful for all that you have. Gratefulness brings happiness and a fulfilling life.” – James Stankunas ’11, Salutatorian

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.