Alumni Spotlight: Maya Harwood ’20

Alumni Spotlight: Maya Harwood ’20

Featuring Maya Harwood, Class of 2020

Maya is from Cleveland Ohio and attended Hershey Montessori School for sixteen years. She began her Hershey journey back in 2004 in our Children’s House program when her mom, desiring a Montessori education for her, chose Hershey while in the process of house hunting.

Maya graduated from Hershey in the spring of 2020. She has since enrolled in the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Savannah, Georgia. She is currently studying to receive her Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Film & Television and her of Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Dramatic Writing. Maya is currently undergoing her studies remotely, living at home with her turtle, Fred, and her new Labradoodle, Sadie May.

Maya’s friends describe her as dedicated, hardworking, and responsible, and hardworking is an adjective she and those of us at Hershey would agree with. Along with her current school studies, Maya does video project work for Hershey.

Here are some fast facts about Maya. We wonder if her friends or fellow alumni know these things about her.



Favorite part of attending Hershey?

The freedom that we were allowed to have throughout their day.


Favorite memory of Hershey?

My sixth grade trip to Washington DC and my ninth grade trip to Findley Lake, New York, which was part of her Education and Peace class.


Favorite space at the Upper School?

It was either the Upper School Café or the Community Room.


Enjoyed most about senior year?

Being able to go off campus for lunch.


Favorite book?

The Harry Potter Series.


Favorite movie?

The Devil All the Time and Harry Potter.


Happiest moment?

Being a camper during the summer, which later led me to become a camp counselor.



 It was great to catch up with you, Maya. We wish you all the best and look forward to our continued connection.

Thanks for chatting with us!


Interview with Hershey Alumn, Dante Calise

Interview with Hershey Alumn, Dante Calise

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our Head of School Paula Leigh-Doyle, met with former Hershey Montessori School student Dante Calise, via Zoom. Paula had several questions, many of them relevant to the times we’re living in. 

Here is their interview conducted in May 2020.

[Paula]  This is Dante Calise. Dante is interviewing with us from his home in Northbrook, Illinois. Dante, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your life journey? How old were you when you started Montessori?

[Dante]  Sure! My parents like to say I was Montessori from the womb. Both of my parents are in Montessori education — they’re both trained in elementary and adolescent. My mom also worked as a toddler and primary teacher. I attended a primary Montessori school where I was taught by another family member, my aunt, at Countryside Day School. In 7th grade, I moved on to Hershey, and I was at the Hershey farm school (Huntsburg Campus) from 7th-9th grade, when at the time, Hershey did not have an upper school. I then went on to the Montessori high school at University Circle in Cleveland through 12th grade. I then ended up at the University of Delaware for my undergraduate, which I am now just finishing off. There, I studied molecular biology. I participated in a lot of research and am now headed off to the University of Wisconsin to start a PHD program in microbiology in August.

[Paula]  Wow, that’s so exciting. So you’ve been accepted into that program?

[Dante]  Yeah, I have.

[Paula]  Congratulations, and so we have a few topics that we would like you to share some reflections on. When you reflect back on Montessori and your life experiences and environments, how do you think it has affected the path you’re choosing now, how it has contributed to your involvement with the community or the environment? How were you able to adapt to the academic expectations in college after being in Montessori schools? During this time of great challenge with COVID-19, and having to move onto your PHD program, what are some of the things that have helped you navigate challenge?

[Dante]  I’ve been in Montessori all my life, up until college, which in a sense I feel like is quite similar to Montessori itself. I think that having had a Montessori education and background really created my excitement and interest for learning. That really is what has determined the trajectory of my academic career as well as I think my professional future. I’m going into research as I said, and really what drew me to research was just the fact that it’s kind of an opportunity to be a student for life. I’m always learning. Before the high school level there were no quantitative grades that I received and I always had control over what I wanted to learn and the paths that I wanted to follow.

[Paula]  So as you mentioned that you didn’t have grades when in the younger years of Montessori, you were measuring your own work and choosing your own course of learning.

[Dante] Yes, so I think that the lack of quantitative and comparative evaluation against other students and my ability to choose what I was learning really let me get excited about the material and excited about the learning. I think if I had been receiving scaled feedback early on, it may have discouraged me from really committing to what was really important and that was the content. So I think that was a big part of how I grew to love to learn.

[Paula]  When you got grades either in high school or in college, was that hard for you to move into that world?

[Dante]  Interestingly, the first formal letter grades that I ever received were in 9th grade at Hershey and I actually was kind of excited. By that point I’d had enough time to learn to love school and really to fall in love with the classroom. I saw them as an opportunity to show my commitment to learning and into the material. It was exciting to see that someone acknowledged my commitment. I found that it was a pretty smooth transition.

[Paula]  Did you have any real stretches academically in your undergrad?

[Dante]  One of the biggest challenges for a lot of people in college is the shift from high school to college in terms of self-advocacy and the amount of self-advocacy that’s necessary. College almost always is larger than the high school you went to and there are thousands of students and many busy faculty members. You need to advocate for yourself a lot more than you might have in high school. I think people really do struggle with that in college. I think that having so much control and having to take initiative in my own education in the Montessori setting set me up very well to be able to succeed in college. I already knew how to reach out and advocate for myself quite well.

[Paula]  Your relationship with your professors, how did you navigate that? It was easy for you to advocate for yourself?

[Dante]  I didn’t have really have any trouble with my relationships or any interactions with professors. I generally had very good relationships with professors. Many professors I expect to remain in contact with after I graduate this month. I definitely think that is related to my education beforehand. At Hershey, there was always a very mutually respectful, and I would say mutually invested, relationship between teachers and students. I took that with me as I went on to college and not so much assumed but decided that’s how I wanted it to be in college as well. I would say that I never had any resistance from professors. I didn’t go to every professor’s office hours but when there was something that I wanted to talk about after classes, I would have thirty or forty minute conversations with them. I often got complements from professors about that, which showed that they really did appreciate it.

[Paula]  Not every student in college has the confidence to initiate conversation with a teacher or someone that they think, thinks differently to them, and you seem to have ease with that. How about collaboration with peers, what was that like at college level?

[Dante]  One aspect of college that is a challenge to many incoming students is moving away from home. One part of that is potential homesickness, and learning to live independently. Another part of this is also living in a physical space with other people. I already had that advantage from living at Hershey and the high school. I think especially having gone to boarding school, it prepared me well for any sort of work I would have to do with my peers in college. I would say I’ve really only had positive relationships with peers in the past four years, and I think a lot of that has to do with the skills I came in with.

[Paula]  It sounds like you had the tools you needed to take on challenging problems, and they didn’t become big problems because you seemed to have the tools to manage them.

[Dante]  Yes, whether I’d seen the problems before or just had the skills, I was basically able to overcome any hurdles I saw in college.

[Paula]  So, a PHD in microbiology, tell us a little bit about that. You’re a passionate learner, you’re curious about everything in the world, from language to science. You’re narrowing down to this specific field, what’s calling to you about it?

[Dante]  So a few things sort of guided me down this path into microbiology. I would say first was actually a class specific to viruses. My professor was a very engaging teacher and did a very good job of showing the relevance, and certainly that relevance is clear now we’re living in a situation where a virus is wreaking havoc on the world. The second component was the hardest part of finding out which area of biology I would like to pursue after my undergraduate. I fell in love with biology in ninth grade at Hershey. I can’t say I’ve ever heard another student describe a program that even compares to what I got to do. There was such a huge amount of hands-on learning in all the sciences at Hershey, for example, Occupations — that is very hands-on. To be able to go out into 90 acres of forest and document each class of vertebrate, to understand our own soil, to understand our own watershed. That really got me excited about biology. I like to look at things as a whole, so with humans or with animals in general, it’s very difficult to look at them on a whole organism level because they are just so complicated. With microorganisms, I found that I could look at the whole thing at once and I really like that about it.

[Paula]  At that notion, of seeing the whole and that notion of the interaction and interdependence of an organism within an environment and how it works as a whole, seems to be a common thread in alumni that I’m hearing from. To say I don’t want to know just this one thing inside a box, I want to know all the parts and how they interact and relate to each other.

[Dante]  Yes, and the idea of how one component fits into a bigger system has a lot to do with the importance of Montessori and the importance of a community that you leave Montessori with. I always think of my own impact on others and my own impact on the community, and that’s definitely true for biological things too.

[Paula]  Yes, and my goodness, your contribution to community in your study, its going to contribute to humanity.

[Dante]  That was part of the attraction of biomedical research for me. I’ve always known I’ve needed to do something that did something for someone. I think I’m young, but I do think about the impact that people leave after they’re gone on the world, and I really think it’s measured in the impact you’ve had on others. When I think about the science of it, that’s what it boils down to, is you leave some physical matter yes, but how you are remembered is what you are after you’re gone. I just think, well, what is the point, if not to help others have it better?

[Paula]  Beautifully said, so you really have a wisdom beyond your years. If I come back and interview you when you’re 90, and I’m wondering… you probably will be saying the same thing. So studying science and studying things like a virus is going to be really meaningful and helpful for us as an entire civilization. Also just how we interact on our earth and how we are effecting all the aspects of the planet and how we can better live on it. During these challenging times, how have you been able to manage your stress?

[Dante]  I will say, I do think Montessori has, for this COVID specific situation that we’re in right now, I think Montessori definitely equipped me, in very unique ways, that perhaps other people might not have. That’s really the sense of community membership and seeing yourself in the greater picture — and it matters. What I do really matters. Every little thing can impact someone else, and that’s absolutely true of the situation we’re in right now. I think those raised in Montessori have that advantage in the fact that they already recognize their impact on the world around them. So in a time where it really matters, they’re ready to do their best as citizens of the world.

[Paula]  That’s beautiful, that gives me hope. I think you’re a bit of an optimist in a realist because you’re grounded in science and human history. You’ve studied how humans behave and respond, yet I hear an optimistic voice that you’re prepared to change path and the next challenge will give you more information and it’ll keep influencing where you go next. I think at the core, your self-awareness and your awareness of others is a beautiful, powerful thing and that’s influencing your choices and it benefits us all.

Hershey Alumni Return, Provide Support to Students

Hershey Alumni Return, Provide Support to Students

Members of the graduating classes of 2018 and 2019 recently returned home to Hershey Montessori School for its annual Alumni Day. 

The graduates hosted a panel discussion with current students where they reflected on their time at Hershey and answered questions about life after high school. The graduates went on to share valuable insights regarding their transition to college, making new friends, and various tips to help students as they continue their own journey in the years to come.

The alumni were also gracious in their time as they participated in a Q&A session with Hershey parents via video conference.

We are grateful to all who were able to join us for this informative, heart-warming, welcome home event.

Many thanks to Mathematics, Business and Microeconomy Guide, Jennifer Snead, for organizing this event, and to all of the alumni for taking the time to share their wisdom with the Hershey community.


Alumni Spotlight: Cameron Zona

Alumni Spotlight: Cameron Zona

Hershey Montessori School is proud to put a spotlight on one of our alumni, Cameron Zona.

Cameron was able to travel with the Mercury Theatre Company to perform in the National Performing Arts Festival on February 21-24. Cameron and his group were judged on national standards by four world class judges. They performed an original 20-minute cabaret, Disney on Broadway, composed of 14 songs from different Broadway musicals like Mary Poppins, Frozen, Aida, and Aladdin. 

The group placed first in their division and second overall and were able to perform half of their show on stage at Disney Springs. Cameron received an award for his singing, dancing, and acrobatic skills during “Seize the Day” from Newsies. 

While at the Festival, Cameron was also able to participate in master-class workshops run by employees and actors at Disney, including former and current Broadway and National Tour actors and actresses.

Photo courtesy Cameron Zona.

Upcoming Performances:

  • The Bridges of Madison County
    March 8-16

    Western Reserve Playhouse
    Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 2:00
    Synopsis: This musical tells the story a love story between a woman and a photographer who has come to town to take pictures of the famed bridges of Madison County, Iowa. Cameron plays the son, Michael.
  • 1776
    April 11-May 5

    Ohio Shakespeare Festival
    Thursdays-Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 2:00
    Synopsis: This classic musical recounts the writing and ratification of the Declaration of Independence. Cameron plays The Courier, who closes Act One with a song that reminds the audience just how even when there are arguments happening within congress, the real problem lies on the battlefield.
    This is a good one to bring middle/upper school students to, great music and very historically accurate.
  • The 10-10 Festival of New Plays
    June 21-July 13

    Chagrin Valley Little Theatre (River Street Playhouse)
    Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00, select Sundays at 2:00
    Synopsis: Ten original one act plays, each ten minutes long! Cameron will be directing five of them selected from nearly 800 submissions.
  • Himalayan Dreams (a Tale of Nepal)
    September 14-October 6

    Talespinner Children’s Theatre
    Fridays at 7:00, Saturdays and Sundays at 3:00 (Possible 10:00AM school matinees on Fridays)
    Synopsis: The story of a Sherpa boy’s humorous coming of age adventure that teaches him about himself, and about his father, a porter.
    This is a great show to bring lower/upper elementary students to, entertaining and original play that teaches about another culture and preaches equality between all children.
Marianna Pasaret – Alumni Spotlight

Marianna Pasaret – Alumni Spotlight

Marianna Pasaret is a 2012 graduate of the Huntsburg campus of Hershey Montessori School.  She is a current resident of Austin Texas and was recently interviewed by ESPEROS in their SoHo stories blog which focused on Lifting Women Up.

Read it here!

Marianna is a multimedia artist, concentrating on a combination of digital and sketch work. She exhibited in London late last year and was Boss Babes’ resident artist last winter. Read her inspiring interview where she discusses what and who empowers her and how she lifts other women up. We at Hershey are very happy for her success both as an artist and an inspiration!


Meet the Hershey Montessori Alumni

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.

If you did not have the chance to attend, please watch the entire event on the Hershey Montessori School YouTube channel!  

You can also learn more about Hershey Montessori here

If you have any questions for alumni, please feel free to email them to mwebster@hershey-montessori.org and a group of alumni will answer them!

Thank you!

Makella Webster, Hershey Montessori School Alumni Coordinator