Erik Weihenmayer Visits MHS and Shows True Impact of Perseverance
For Milton Hershey School’s third annual Perseverance Through Adversity speaker series, Erik Weihenmayer visited with MHS students and shared his remarkable story of success.
Despite losing his vision at the age of 14, Erik has become one of the most accomplished athletes in the world. On May 25, 2001 he became the only blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest. He also embarked on a 13-year journey to climb the tallest peaks on each of the seven continents and completed his quest in 2008.
“We invited Erik to MHS because he’s one of many who have persevered through a tough situation that happened when he was a child. He had to figure out whether he was going to be pushed aside…or if he was going to do great things,” said Deanna Slamans, MHS Social and Emotional Learning Curriculum Supervisor. “[For MHS students], it’s tempting for them to push themselves aside because they’re believing some of the things society has said. [Meeting Erik] has helped them say, ‘We’re not going to be pushed aside. We’re going to matter and do some great things.’”
During his visit, Erik interacted with several MHS students by organizing an indoor rock climbing outing. Students had a chance to ask Erik questions about his story, listen to his advice for overcoming obstacles, and witness his perseverance in action as he displayed his climbing skills and athletic abilities.
“Erik climbed Mount Everest and now he’s rock climbing with us. To meet somebody who [accomplished] those feats, it’s pretty amazing,” said Enrique Hidalgo, an MHS junior. “Erik could have said, ‘Life’s too hard. I’m not going to try these things,’ but instead, he pushed himself through those obstacles.”
Many students also used the rock-climbing activity as a way to empathize with Erik.
“MHS students had the utmost respect for him because climbing in general is difficult,” added Slamans. “To create empathy with Erik, some of the students actually challenged themselves and put blindfolds on to see if they could scale one of the walls without being able to see.”
Erik also was invited to the school’s weekly Sunday Chapel service where he spoke to the entire student body about staying positive, following a growth mindset, and persevering through adversity.
“Maybe the kids aren’t blind, but as they watch somebody who’s blind having fun, and using my own systems and strategies, [they see] that I’m finding my own way up the rock face,” said Erik. “People can relate to that because we’re all in the same boat. We all have things that knock us down.”
Milton Hershey School organizes inspirational speaker series to encourage students to develop strong character and leadership skills as well as empathy for the people around them.