Milton Hershey School Honors the Class of 2021 with a Virtual Commencement Ceremony
On Friday, June 11, Milton Hershey School honored the Class of 2021 with a Virtual Commencement Ceremony including personal recognition of each senior, student speeches, a senior class video, and messages of congratulations from the MHS community to commemorate this milestone achievement.
As the largest graduating class in MHS history, the Class of 2021 joins an alumni network of now over 11,000 graduates. This resilient class persevered through unprecedented times and now, as a class of 237 students, has reached a monumental moment as Milt brothers and sisters.
The virtual ceremony began with accolades to the senior award recipients, along with the announcement of Valedictorian, Lydia Lausch; Salutatorian, Derrick Nhin; and Most Nearly Ideal Senior, Elijah Espaillat. Additionally, MHS acknowledged its 16 MHS lifers, who started their MHS journeys in pre-K, kindergarten, or first grade.
MHS President Pete Gurt ’85 welcomed guests with a quote from American author and activist, Hellen Keller, to remind students, parents/sponsors, staff, and the entire MHS community of the pure resilience of the Class of 2021.
“‘A bend in the road is not the end of the road…unless you fail to take the turn,’” President Gurt said. “Hellen Keller’s insights remind all of us that the Class of 2021 experienced a long bend in the road, but each of you took the turn.”
President Gurt recognized the Class of 2021 for their response to adversity and how they embraced the challenges that came with this school year impacted by COVID-19.
“You understood that the longer you got stuck in the disappointment, the greater the chances it would limit your joy,” President Gurt said. “You embraced the concept that the greater the challenge, the greater the joy when rising above it.”
To celebrate the memorable moments, seniors reflected back on the special activities that their class was able to participate in such as Opening of School activities, Hersheypark days, a glow party, and their 100-day countdown to graduation checklist.
Classmates Prince Sokpo and Brianna Mejia-Encarnacion gave compelling speeches about their journeys at MHS and how they have grown—as individuals and as a class.
“MHS is full of genuinely encouraging people and impactful opportunities,” Prince said. “There isn’t another place that truly lets us heal from home struggles, and lets us create a positive path for ourselves.”
Brianna later encouraged her classmates to continue persevering in life like they did during this school year and don’t forget, “Your future depends on what you do today, not tomorrow.”
Milton Hershey School’s 2021 Alumna of the Year Christine Cook ’81 was interviewed in a video tribute highlighting her 35-year teaching career at MHS and her family’s legacy at the school. As the first female to graduate from MHS, Chris and her classmates paved the way for generations of females. She has continued to impact students inside and outside of the classroom including three of this year’s MHS lifers—Nicholas Brewer, Jade Isaac, and Antonio Flores.
The Class of 2021 officially became MHS graduates during the program’s virtual awarding of diplomas by Bob Ebert, MHS High School Principal. Each student was individually recognized by the reading of their name, while their signature cap and gown picture appeared on the screen.
Afterwards, MHS staff members across campus shared messages of congratulations and encouraged graduates to stay focused on their futures as they start their next chapter.
Senior Visual and Performing Arts students performed a signature arrangement of the popular song, “Dreams,” by The Cranberries to remind their classmates to dream big.
The ceremony concluded with students from each scholastic division and alumnus and broadway professional Marcus Paul James ’99 singing the school’s Alma Mater.