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Tatiana Ariola ’15

When you Google “The True Meaning of Family,” one of the first links posted is a blog on Milton Hershey School’s website written in 2016 by a school graduate. At the time, as a freshman in college, the author talks about how blood relations do not define family. It’s characterized by those who love and support you. It’s fitting because the author, Tatiana Ariola ’15, is a storyteller by nature and now by profession. Even years later, her story continues to invite more and more people to learn about MHS.

Growing up in a coal mining town in northeastern Pennsylvania, Tatiana struggled to foresee a future for herself. When she was 10 years old, her mom got sick and went through a very long process to be eventually diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Her mom was in and out of work, struggling to support three kids. That’s when Tatiana heard about MHS through her brother’s classmate.

“I actually convinced my mom to let me apply,” she said. “I knew Milton Hershey School helped pay for college, and in my head, I knew that was my only route to college. I knew I didn’t have the money to pay for it myself.”

A motivated student, Tatiana always knew she wanted to be involved in the arts. She enrolled in the seventh grade at MHS in 2009. She found her passion in high school and leaned into the Graphic Communication Technologies pathway as part of the Career and Technical Education Program. There, she met and started training with teacher Mindy Harmon, who helped mold Tatiana’s passion and helped her learn an art career could be a good choice.

“Ms. Harmon helped me develop my skills. She helped me get certified in things that led me to get graphic design internships and, eventually, jobs. Those jobs financially supported me through my first year of college.”

While at MHS, Tatiana interned as a graphic designer with Hershey Entertainment & Resorts in its creative department and helped design a new cup for the Hershey Bears, a professional ice hockey team. That same year, she interned with the MHS Office of Communications and worked on various projects, including updating the Spartan Head logo.

In fall 2015, she attended the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, New York, and continued to expand her skills and knowledge. She interned in New York City with a commercial advertising still-life photographer. When she graduated from RIT, she worked as a marketing assistant doing photography and design and started Tatiana Ariola Photography in 2018. A year later, she and her partner opened Hill + Valley Creative, a full-service production company based in Rochester.

“I don’t know what it is, but I’ve always had an internal satisfaction of doing things,” she said. “I think I’m a little selfish because a lot of my success comes from an internal need to be happy. I’ve found that happiness and health create wealth, and I’ve found a life that helps me do that.”

As Hill + Valley’s creative director, she crafts her clients’ stories through photography, video direction, postproduction, and design. She also runs Tat Voyage, a travel consulting business that helps people travel on a budget.

“In retrospect, I’ve been working in the graphic design industry for more than 10 years, and I’m only turning 28. That’s pretty wild. The opportunities I received at MHS created a snowball effect. They led me to RIT, which helped me get jobs and put me on the path to financial success.”

As for the true meaning of family?

“It’s funny when I say I’m going home, people assume that my parents live in Hershey,” she said. “It’s funny, (MHS) is not just a school, it’s home. It’s having a support system. If I ever needed help, I would find it there. The MHS network transcends so many ideations of what networks are supposed to be. Home is where the people that you love are. It’s a place of safety and comfort. If I could say thank you to anyone, I would say thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Hershey for literally everything.”

Learn More about Career and Technical Education at MHS

Breakthrough Moments

During the 2023-24 Opening of School Assembly, members of the MHS community, including Tatiana, were recognized for their Breakthrough accomplishments. She shared how authentic work experiences at MHS helped launch her career in photography and videography.

Video Poster

Milton Hershey School does not discriminate in admissions or other programs and services on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, sex, religious creed or disability. Read important MHS policies on equal opportunity and diversity, equal employment opportunity, and more.