Milton Hershey School Graduates 217 Seniors at 88th Commencement Ceremony
On Sunday, June 12, Milton Hershey School students, staff, parents/sponsors, and community members gathered at Giant Center to honor the Class of 2022 at the school’s 88th Commencement Ceremony. Filled with emotion and gratitude, 217 seniors received diplomas and spent their last moments as MHS students surrounded by their families and community.
The ceremony, which included personal recognition of each graduating senior, student speeches, videos to honor their MHS journeys, and more, represented the first time that the MHS community has been back together at Giant Center in several years. This momentous occasion was not lost on the seniors who sat proudly on stage, overlooking a crowd of nearly 5,000 supporters.
Arlene Samayoa-Rodas, member of the Class of 2022, welcomed everyone to the ceremony and reminded her fellow graduates to carry with them the foundations they created at the school.
“As we leave this place, we have discovered that we are more than our silent battles and uncertain moments. All the sacrifice and our drive to succeed is something that we have carried with us; it has become our foundation,” she shared.
Each year, Commencement marks the end of a chapter for our graduating class and the beginning of a new journey—joining more than 11,000 MHS alumni who have walked this path before them. Through the Alumni of the Year award, MHS recognizes an alumna/nus who has gone above and beyond in their career, community, and commitment to the mission and values of the school. The 2021 Alumna of the Year and retired MHS teacher, Chris Cook ’81, addressed the graduates and crowd with an inspirational message.
Prior to the presentation of diplomas, MHS President Pete Gurt ’85 reminded graduates that while the last two years have presented new challenges, their resilience has shined in more ways than one.
“You are Spartans,” he shared. “Those setbacks did not deter you from excelling in what you were able to do. You found ways to connect and build community. You rose to the challenge and overcame the roadblocks that were placed in front of you. You understood that every obstacle had an opportunity, and you focused on that opportunity. That’s what Spartans do.”
He charged the Class of 2022 to take the lessons and values they learned at MHS and do great things, reinforcing that this community—represented in their class rings—will always be there.
After each graduate walked across the stage, officially earning their diploma, Elijah Ward, MHS Valedictorian of the Class of 2022, gave a farewell address on behalf of his classmates. Elijah spoke to the importance of seizing the day and taking steps towards success together.
“This once skinny sixth-grader who didn’t believe in himself learned tenacity, strength, and purpose from this school turned home. I think of my mom, realizing right now that her sacrifice changed me, and my brother’s lives,” shared Elijah. “I also think of my friends on this stage, ready to begin a new journey and reflecting on how the twists and turns of their own story led them to today.”
The Class of 2022 faced many challenges during their time at MHS, but they continued to achieve and set the bar higher for those who will come after them. As a class, they have volunteered more than 1,350 hours toward community service projects, earned 1,103 college credits, and have been awarded $17.1 million in the Continuing Education Scholarship. With 65 members of this graduating class attending MHS since elementary school, it’s no surprise that there are 55 National Honor Society members and 39 National Technical Honor Society members among them.
After graduation, the Class of 2022 plans to pursue a number of opportunities:
- 60% Four-Year College
- 23% Two-Year College and Technical School
- 7 % Diploma and Certificate Program
- 6 % Workforce
- 3 % Gap Semester/Year
- 1% Military
These 217 students graduated from high school, defying the statistics and societal obstacles that said they wouldn’t. We are reminded of the power and generosity of our founders, Milton and Catherine Hershey, who thought that if the school they created served just 100 boys, it would be a success. Today, these young adults fulfill their vision, embarking on a new adventure.
Congratulations Class of 2022! The entire MHS community cannot wait to see what you do next!