In Their Own Words ...
Sharing thoughts and reflections on her time
at Milton Hershey School
The Commencement Welcome Speech
Date of Enrollment: September 2003
Career Aspirations: Pediatric oncologist
Distinguished guests, members of the Milton Hershey School community, family and friends, welcome to the class of 2012's commencement program. As we begin our final journey at MHS, we reflect on the memories we have created. My memories at the Milton Hershey School started in September 2003. I was nine years old, and excited to start my journey. Milton Hershey seemed like the perfect getaway for an adventurous little girl who needed to be away from the family turmoil. Although I wanted to be here, every day for that first month I cried and cried over the absence of my family. I remember my houseparents telling me to stop crying and be a big girl. I thought they were being insensitive. However as time went on, I realized they were teaching me to be strong.
My first houseparents, Mr. and Mrs. Cowan, taught me many things in my first two years as a Milton Hershey student. One of the lessons I remember the most was one they did not intend to teach me. During my first year, Mrs. Cowan asked me to deep clean the kitchen. When I reached the oven, I realized that the black muck inside would be too hard to clean with just my rag and scrubber. I went to Mrs. Cowan and told her that the oven could not be cleaned. She looked at me and said, "Just use some elbow grease". Elbow Grease. I had never heard that expression before; thinking logically I assumed it was a cleaner. For the next fifteen minutes I went around the entire house looking for a bottle of elbow grease. When I could not find it, I went back and told Mrs. Cowan that we were all out. She started laughing and said "No, elbow is grease is a phrase not a cleaner, it means to put your strength into what you are doing". That lesson is what helped me to get through the last nine years.
I am not the only one who had to use elbow grease; our houseparents, teachers, and families have all had to use their elbow grease to help get us here today.
Houseparents, you have been forced to use a lot of elbow grease while working with us. Through my time here I could see the stress written on your faces when we would pin things such as unlikable rules and policies on you. I remember numerous times hearing students and houseparents arguing back and forth. It was obvious that you were struggling not to take your frustration out on the student. Through those hard times though, you always found a way to teach us life lessons.
My high school housefather, Mr. Yoder, was always direct about teaching us lessons that would help us succeed in our life after Milton Hershey. He taught us self-advoction, time management, and accepting responsibility. However, in order for us to understand some of these lessons he had to struggle to get his point across. Many times we thought he was just being cruel. We did not understand that he was giving us the tools and skills we would need for college and beyond. All houseparents have taught us these lessons in their own ways. They all have had to pull out their elbow grease to make us realize that they were trying to help us. Houseparents, we thank you for all your hard work.
Teachers have also had to use their fair share of elbow grease. We have all had that one thing in school that we could not comprehend. For Sesay it was derivatives in calculus; Ashlynn struggled with her senior thesis paper; and Diabelize had to turn English into Spanish. For me it was Algebra 1. That material was so hard for me to comprehend. I was lost. I swore half the time my teacher was speaking another language. Thankfully though, our teachers were willing to give the extra hours to help us with these subjects. They stayed after school to help us learn the challenging material. Teachers, we thank you for all the hard work and dedication you have put into us over the years.
Perhaps the people who used the most elbow grease were our family members. You have made the biggest sacrifice. You sent your children away. You struggled to let us go. But you did it. There were many times that we ran to you crying that it was too hard here. We did not want to be here anymore. We wanted to be normal teenagers. Fortunately though, you have stood strong, said no, and sent us right back. I know if my family had not been supporting and pushing me, then I would have never made it here today. My grandmother would not listen to my excuses about why I did not want to come back. She told me that if I wanted to go to college and make my dreams come true then I would have to return to MHS. But all I heard in my teenage mind was "suck it up and finish your time there". Parents it has not been easy, but all your hard work and telling us no pays off today as we walk across this stage. We could never thank you enough for all the support and encouragement you have given us.
None of this hard work though, would have been possible without Milton and Catherine Hershey. Mr. Hershey put his elbow grease into making the perfect chocolate bar. It took him years and multiple failed tries to get the right formula. Eventually, he found that perfect recipe. When Milton Hershey finally experienced mass success he did not spend his fortune selfishly. Rather he listened to Catherine's suggestion and built this school. He wanted us to know that in order to have our own success we would have to learn how to use our elbow grease. We are eternally thankful to the Hersheys for the opportunities they have given us and the lessons they have taught us.
Class of 2012 as we begin our final hours at MHS I encourage you to remember all of the good times you have had, but, more importantly, I encourage you to remember the struggles. Those hard times that we faced taught us important lessons for life. By remembering those times we will remember the lessons we need to know. As we move on with our lives we will face difficulties and hard times. Just remember, with a little elbow grease we can get through anything.