Shawnda Kohr ’08
When Shawnda Kohr ’08 was seven years old, she enrolled at Milton Hershey School from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. While being away from her family was overwhelming at such a young age, Shawnda adapted quickly and thrived in the stable, home-like environment.
“Both of my parents spent time in and out of prison, so we were being raised by my grandmother,” she said. “It was a really hard decision, but [my family] knew the school would provide the stability we needed, access to healthcare, a quality education, and above all else, safety—all the things they couldn’t offer us at home.”
As a student, Shawnda tried as many new activities as possible—including choir, student government association, music lessons, ski club, and softball. In high school, she also had the opportunity to volunteer with the MHS admissions team and share her experience with prospective families.
“I felt so proud of the person MHS gave me the opportunity to be,” Shawnda said. “I was proud to be able to represent the school and share my experience with new students and families.”
Shawnda graduated from MHS in 2008 and attended a college for one year before transferring to La Salle University in Philadelphia. With a bachelor’s degree in communications, a focus in public relations, and a minor in leadership and global understanding, Shawnda began her career at a financial communications firm in New York City.
“I started out as the receptionist, was promoted to executive assistant, and then promoted to the recruiting team,” she explained. “My focus is on human resources and recruiting for our five U.S. offices. I get to exercise my mentorship skills and help younger professionals grow.”
Shawnda’s communication skills have not only helped her succeed in her career, but allowed her to view the world through different lenses. She credits MHS with teaching her empathy and giving her a lifelong appreciation for diversity.
“One of the biggest things the school fostered in me was my love for diversity and people. I was surrounded by people who were incredibly different from me,” Shawnda said. “One of the things I carry with me to this day is having empathy for others, listening to their perspective, and genuinely wanting to see how they view the world.”
Now, Shawnda is taking her love for culture and diversity and making a major career change. She’s moving to Thailand to teach English to young children.
“I think the English language creates a lot of connections and opportunities for people,” she said. “I want to help children learn a language that would enable them to do something above and beyond what their local communities may provide for them. That’s essentially what MHS did for me—it gave me the skills and tools I needed to do something more than what I initially had in life.”
MHS also taught Shawnda to embrace challenges and step outside her comfort zone.
“While it might be challenging navigating cultural norms and a language I don’t know, I’ve always found those moments to be incredibly rewarding,” she added. “I’m not afraid of them—I’m really excited to push out of my comfort zone.”
Thanks to the opportunities she received at MHS, Shawnda says the school was life-changing for all the right reasons. She wants to share Milton Hershey’s philanthropic spirit with people from all walks of life.
“When I used to envision success, it looked like a ladder which meant there was only one way to get there,” she said. “After I decided to take the leap and [move to Thailand], it allowed me to see that there isn’t one way to achieve success. For me, I want to define success by being happy and making someone else’s life better.”