Milton Hershey School Holds Virtual Commencement Ceremony for Class of 2020
On Saturday, June 13, Milton Hershey School held its first-ever virtual Commencement Ceremony to celebrate the Class of 2020.
With state health and social distancing practices in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, seniors, along with their family members, friends, and MHS community, gathered virtually to commemorate the “Vision Class” of 2020. The ceremony incorporated many of the traditional elements signature to an MHS Commencement, while also including special videos and messages directed to the graduating class.
The virtual celebration paid homage to other events that would have also taken place in person, if not for these unprecedented times. The Senior Award Ceremony was incorporated at the beginning of the virtual Commencement with award recipients and the 22 MHS lifers recognized.
MHS President Pete Gurt ’85 welcomed viewers to the ceremony and commended seniors for the perseverance they demonstrated during their time at MHS, especially over the last few months.
“When we started your journey at the beginning of the school year, we couldn’t have predicted how it would end,” President Gurt said. “You deserved better—you earned better. COVID-19 is a reminder for us all that we can only focus on what we can control and influence.”
President Gurt also reminded students of the “Be Golden” theme for the 2019-20 MHS school year and the lessons learned this spring.
“As you know, our potential is almost always discovered and built during our toughest times, and I shared at our Opening of School Assembly that sometimes falling apart is actually falling into place. Your senior year feels like it has fallen apart since March, but actually, it has fallen into place for you, if you choose to focus on what you have learned about yourself, what is important to you, and how you will move forward.”
Seniors were able to reflect on the year through a montage of photos showcasing special moments and memories. They also heard from fellow classmates who shared special addresses with their classmates. Ireayah Mensahn ’20 and Njambi Womack ’20 spoke about their individual journeys at MHS and what they’ll cherish most, while also expressing thanks to the people who supported them along the way. Both acknowledged that this year has been different, and difficult at times, but their class has risen to the challenges they have faced.
Ireayah reminded her classmates that “no one else can tell this story but us, and generations from now our story will be told.” Later, Njambi added: “Every one of us in the Class of 2020 has been through a journey unlike any other before us.” She challenged her classmates to define their own success.
Other notable alumni joined the virtual celebration, including Chairman of the MHS Board of Managers, Robert Heist ’82, who gave the soon-to-be graduates three key pieces of advice as they look ahead to their time beyond MHS:
- Take some time to reflect
- You are the Vision Class, so be visionary
- You are legendary and never forget it
Charles “Chuck” Seidel ’87, 2020 Alumnus of the Year, was also honored with a video tribute, where he told his MHS story and explained how the lessons he learned at MHS have positively shaped his life as an alumnus.
Seniors officially became graduates during the program’s virtual awarding of diplomas. Bob Ebert, the high school principal at MHS, individually recognized each student by reading their name, while the seniors—donned in the signature cap and gown—appeared on screen.
Throughout the program, seniors were surprised by video messages of congratulations and encouragement. MHS staff from departments across campus shared their well wishes for the graduates and offered advice on how to stay “Golden” beyond graduation. Members of the Class of 2020 also appeared in a video sharing their hopes for their classmates and encouragement for each other.
To close out the ceremony, and in MHS tradition, seniors sang the Alma Mater as new graduates. This year was special as fellow alumni kicked off the singing and welcomed their new Milt sisters and brothers.Watch the Virtual Commencement Ceremony