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Milton Hershey School Kicks Off a Breakthrough School Year

Milton Hershey School staff and students were challenged to have a Breakthrough year during the school’s 2023 Opening of School Assembly on Monday, Aug. 14 at GIANT Center.

This year’s Assembly marks the tenth celebration of its kind under the leadership of MHS President Pete Gurt ’85. Each year it generates excitement and energy through videos, speeches, music, and more.

Milton Hershey School President Pete Gurt '85 speaking at the 2023 Opening of School Assembly. The school year theme is Breakthrough.

The opening experience featured students who enrolled prior to the first Assembly in August 2014. It was followed up by a special rap written and performed by MHS alumnus Kayvon Asemani ’14.

Following the performance, MHS Home Life Administrator A.J. Rinaldi, reminded students that everyone at MHS is here to support their Breakthrough. He shared that good habits, hard work, and effort are the keys to achieving true success.

“If you are looking for a Breakthrough, quit looking out the window and look into the mirror,” Rinaldi said.

Milton Hershey School Opening of School Assembly speaker AJ Rinaldi talks about Breakthrough moments.

MHS Senior Director of Home Life Services Ododo Walsh ’98 joined the celebration to remind the community to care for others as they work toward their individual Breakthrough. Respect and a strong work ethic are key to a Breakthrough, Walsh added.

Milton S. Hershey knew the importance of centering his school around a supportive community. Representatives from across the town of Hershey—including Hershey Trust Company, Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, The Hershey Company, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, and The M.S. Hershey Foundation—attended the Assembly to show their support.

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“We are truly one community, centered around one mission, working for the benefit of Milton Hershey School,” said Don Papson, The M.S. Hershey Foundation Executive Director.

Members of the Hershey Bears staff—including mascot, Coco the Bear—awarded special prizes to student homes that have exemplified the MHS Sacred Values.

Members of the alumni community, Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning, and MHS students and staff also were recognized for their Breakthrough accomplishments.

To close the event, Gurt encouraged the community to take a four-step approach—Look In, Reach Out, Rise Up, Breakthrough—to the upcoming year.

“We will define Breakthrough as shattering real or perceived barriers to become the very best version of ourselves,” Gurt said.

The Breakthrough theme was inspired by the Keyhole sculpture at the entrance to Spartan Commons on campus. MHS believes that with resources and opportunity, students can unlock their own potential.

“The Keyhole sculpture symbolizes the opportunity to unlock your potential. But to unlock your potential, you need new keys,” Gurt said. “We need new insights, new relationships, new goals, and new habits. Because old keys don’t unlock new doors.”

Rewatch the LivestreamLearn More about Opening of School

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