Milton Hershey School Students Pitch Big Ideas Through Hershey Honors Business Class
In a room full of Fortune 400 company executives, 15 young innovators recently pitched big ideas for The Hershey Company. Some worked solo. Others shared the stage with a teammate. All were students in Milton Hershey School’s Hershey Honors Business class.
Compared to The Hershey Company leaders, the students had limited years of experience. They developed their ideas and proposals over one semester. When they opened their minds and applied lessons they learned at MHS and from Hershey executives, they unlocked a world of possibilities.
Felisita Vasquez and Mohamed-Rayane El Abdellaoui, MHS seniors, encouraged The Hershey Company to expand its Hershey Kisses product line by adding tropical flavors. The pitch was personal for Vasquez, a native of Hawaii.
“I was very excited to have the opportunity to share insights into the Polynesian culture,” she said.
Lany Brode and Derrick Adzinku gave The Hershey Company executives honest and constructive feedback — Twizzlers need more visibility. The large, flat bags often sit on bottom shelves in stores. Brode and Adzinku suggested The Hershey Company package Twizzlers in a resealable bag that stands up. This method, they believe, would increase sales because customers would see them easily.
“At first, it was nerve-wracking to stand in front of everyone. Once I got up there, I relaxed and felt confident in our work,” Brode said of the experience.
The Hershey Honors Business class welcomes two guest speakers from The Hershey Company each week of the semester. Teacher Marianne Cutugno said lectures cover every aspect of the company, including mission, product development, warehousing, and consumer reviews.
The Hershey Honors Business class is one of several ways The Hershey Company supports MHS students. Each semester, several students gain real-world experience by interning at The Hershey Company.
Star Gibbs, manager of talent development for The Hershey Company, described working with MHS students as rewarding and symbiotic.
“The students get experience in a Fortune 400 company, but we are getting insight into how the future workforce thinks,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs added watching students develop big ideas in a couple of weeks while juggling other academic and extracurricular responsibilities was especially impressive.
Ryan Shaffer, senior manager of The Hershey Company’s Global Customer Insights Center, has worked with seven MHS students enrolled in the Hershey Honors Business class over the course of two years. Like Gibbs, he enjoys engaging with the students and embraces the opportunity to help them develop throughout the semester.
“As I watched these presentations, it was clear they learned a lot from their experience with us,” Shaffer said.
As the students prepare for graduation in June, they feel ready to face real-world challenges thanks to the lessons they garnered through The Hershey Honors Business class.
“I learned to be more confident in myself and that ideas can only happen if you go for it,” Vasquez said.