On March 16th, five Hershey Montessori School Alumni shared insights into our lives after Hershey Montessori School. Each of us are in different places in our lives and careers so it was interesting to see how we each have ways in common that our time at Hershey Montessori School impacts us in our lives, school, and careers today. Katie Vadakin and I participated remotely and Andrew Yarger, Connor DeWalt, and Leigh Emelko participated in person at the Concord Campus.
Since attending Hershey Montessori School I have reminisced many times about all the incredible experiences I had there. Even now, as I sit hundreds of miles away surrounded by the warmth of a Florida winter, I can remember in the most vivid detail the lessons and memories I created at Hershey. From the fresh winter cold that was only alleviated by the warmth of the steam evaporating off maple sap in the sugaring shack, to the nervous jitters I had acting in my first production in elementary, to the joy I experienced crossing the bridge from one plane of my Children’s House education on to the next. So much of who I am and what I have learned is entwined with the people and place that makes Hershey Montessori School so special to me.
Despite the many vivid memories, until recently I have not been able to encapsulate my experience into a singular cohesive piece. In all truth, I doubt I’ll ever be able to perfectly capture how Heresy has affected me and how meaningfully and deeply the person I am in my adult life was altered and crafted by my education at Hershey. Yet, with writing this, I will make an attempt at putting into words all that, until now, has eluded me about my experience.
Having spent the majority of my formative years learning and developing at Hersey Montessori School, I learned to take ahold of my own life and education. I learned at a young age to invest in myself and to be inquisitive of the world around me. I developed in a nurturing environment that encouraged and promoted initiative and self-discovery; learning from my peers, mentors, and experiences. Hershey gave me the tools, time, and encouragement to not only learn, but to also lead in areas that sparked my interest.
In a time when seemingly daily more schools are making the decision to cut art programs and focus their resources solely on STEM related courses, Hersey is the outlier. A Montessori education, and specifically a Hersey education is an education that values holistic and interconnected learning within a community. The education I began at Hershey taught me the value in both a conventional schooling in the sciences, math, english, and history; as well as the value of an education in music, arts, foreign language, environment, humanities, and occupations. I could continue to endlessly detail every intricacy of my education at Hershey; however, I believe it is much easier for me to simply say that my time at Hershey taught me to understand that the world truly is my classroom.
After my graduation from Hershey Montessori School, I continued to see the value in learning in an environment that focused on the arts as a pillar of a well-rounded education. I pursued my interest in performance art and specifically theatrical design that I found and that was nurtured during my time at Hershey. Now as an Entertainment Technician at Walt Disney World, and quite a few years after my time at Hershey, I still hold the lessons I learned there dear. I remember the lessons learned on cold winter mornings when the animals at the Huntsburg campus needed fed and the fire in the bioshelter needed fuel. Surely my fellow alumni understand the value of hard work, determination, and selflessness that came from those frigid mornings.
From all I learned at Hershey though, I would have to say that no lesson was as valuable and impactful than the one that almost goes unnoticed but is experienced in every little moment. It is a lesson I learned with every obstacle I overcame, all the quiet morning spent listening to my friends play guitars, each thanksgiving meal, every time I struggled to craft a written work, and even every time I mucked the stalls. I learned to make the most of everything I experienced – to treat every moment as more than just an opportunity to learn and grow, but also as a chance to live with intention and joy surrounded by my classmates and friends. That is a lesson that can’t be taught, it can only be experienced in a nurturing and thought-out environment focused on both individual and communal growth. Now, more than ever it seems, this is a lesson that needs to be shared and experienced. As education becomes an institution it replaces excitement with rigidity, taking what I see as the joy out of learning. Hershey is the complete antithesis of that, making learning a communal activity, having taught me more than simply names and dates, but teaching me that learning and growing truly is a delight.
Jake Hines, Hershey Montessori School Alumni Ambassador
My name is Katie Vadakin, and I grew up in the Hershey community from 18 months old to 14 years old (1997-2010), however, Hershey continues to be a part of me today. I am currently in my third year at Bentley University, a business-centered university in Boston. Additionally, I just returned from Madrid, Spain where I was studying for the last four months. Before I left for this unique opportunity abroad, I can recall my internship supervisor saying to me something along the lines of “Katie, you’re pretty well-rounded and worldly for someone from the Midwest.” Disregarding the classic East Coast jab at the Midwest (long live CLE), this is not the first time I have heard something along these lines regarding my leadership, travels, or general independence. While there is no doubt in my mind that Hershey Montessori shaped me into the person I am today, I believe that it affected my independence and curiosity the most. Montessori’s hands-on learning style, which allows students to explore both their indoor and outdoor classrooms, contributes to a child’s curiosity and develops into an adolescent’s desire to learn. I have always felt a desire to learn – not only academically, but also culturally and introspectively. This ambition fueled by my Hershey education has led to my passions for volunteering, travel, mathematics, Spanish, and much more.
I gained independence and confidence as a child through opportunities such as choosing my own work, performing in short plays, and exploring the nature around me. In my later years at Hershey I further developed leadership skills at the Farm School through activities such as running the holiday basket sales, leading a committee to create a yearbook, and volunteering to work with students at the elementary school. Memories from Hershey like these have stayed with me throughout my personal and professional development. At the time, I had no idea that actions such as building a fort in “stick city,” singing at the Farm’s “Coffee House” night, or serving food at the annual pancake breakfast would each be instrumental in my education. I hold these memories close, not only because they made up my childhood and adolescence, but also because I know that I owe a lot of my current experiences and success to the background Hershey has given me.
Imagine a beautiful place filled with activities that are designed around your needs, calling to your curiosity and imagination. Picture a community where children are surrounded by people who understand, encourage and challenge their strengths. Envision a child learning each day, immersed in a culture of respect and a course of study based upon personal interest and engagement.
Serving children from birth through age 18, Hershey offers challenging, highly individualized programs that focus on the uniqueness of each child.
Hershey offers an exceptional experience on two campuses, including the truly unique, world class farm school.