MHS Seniors Complete 1,200 Community Service Hours and Pass the Torch to Younger Students
How do you teach kids the value of helping others? At Milton Hershey School, students of all ages have opportunities to get involved in their community. By giving back, they learn important lessons on how to act with compassion, express gratitude, work with others, and lead with serving hearts.
“We’re giving back to our founder who has done so much for us,” said Michael Abdalov, a junior at MHS. “It’s the least we can do to help our community in return.”
During the 2016-17 school year, MHS seniors in the Transitional Living community completed more than 1,200 hours of community service and set the standard for younger students to continue in their footsteps. Learn more about how MHS students are giving back both on and off campus.
Leading the Way
When Milton Hershey School students begin their senior year, they join Transitional Living communities that feature apartment-style complexes to encourage independent living. For the 2016-17 school year, MHS seniors were broken into five Transitional Living communities with specific themes.
Community service was one of the five themes. MHS leaders assigned a group of male and female seniors who were interested in volunteering to the Leadership and Community Service community.
Together, the seniors completed approximately 1,200 community service hours throughout the school year.
“The school has given students so much,” said Mark McKamey, a transitional living coordinator at MHS. “To be able to participate [in community service] plants the seed that it’s their responsibility to give back in some way, shape, or form.”
Students had opportunities to volunteer at area nursing homes, usher at Hershey Symphony Orchestra concerts, volunteer at the Derry Township fall festival, and raise money for local causes. They also gained leadership experience by planning their own community service events within the MHS campus, where they served as mentors to younger students.
“When we invite younger students over, they get so much out of it,” said McKamey. “The seniors planned an Easter egg hunt and provided food, games, and prizes—but we didn’t need any of that as long as the younger students could spend time with the seniors. When we broke into groups, the older students talked to them about staying strong and doing well in school.”
To serve as positive role models across campus, MHS seniors also organized their own basketball clinic for more than 50 middle schoolers. The seniors were responsible for recruiting their peers to volunteer at the event, running drills, planning pick-up games, keeping the younger students engaged, and sharing personal stories about overcoming adversity.
The goal is to give seniors autonomy and independence when it comes to community service, so they can organize projects they are passionate about.
“When we talk to the upcoming senior class, we tell them to start thinking about what project they want to plan,” added McKamey. “Our goal is to set the standard and achieve more than 1,200 hours next year.”
Passing the Torch
Giving back to the community provides important leadership skills for seniors, but Milton Hershey School is committed to fostering this mindset at an early age. High schoolers of all ages learn how to act with compassion through school traditions like the annual Day of Service. At this year’s Day of Service, MHS students volunteered at more than 35 organizations.
“The most important thing about today [the Day of Service] is realizing how much we’re given at Milton Hershey School and then giving back to the community—because they do so much for us,” said Zachary Beard, a sophomore at MHS. “It’s the least we can do.”
Students also have opportunities to get involved in their community throughout the school year. For the last three years, MHS high school students have hosted annual Mini-THON events to raise money for the Four Diamonds Foundation. Total, they have raised more than $280,000 for the organization—and learned how to work together for a common cause, set and meet goals, and plan creative fundraisers.
“It’s important to give back to the community,” said Diedone Gomes, an MHS sophomore. “We might not know them, but it’s fun meeting new people and forming new relationships.”
During the summer, MHS students give back to their community through the Spartan Ice Cream Center and Project Market. After selling homemade ice cream and campus-grown produce, they donate their profits to Penn State Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House.
“It gives us a chance to [thank] the community for everything it has done for us. It can be really rewarding,” said Chase Bailey, an MHS sophomore.
Putting others first is a significant part of character and leadership development. By participating in community service events, MHS students are becoming well-rounded, 21st century citizens.
MHS Professionals Blog
No matter what level of interaction MHS staff members have with students, everyone’s work contributes to our goal of building brighter futures through a top-notch education. Read the blogs of our professionals and hear from the talented individuals who live out the school’s mission.