Hershey Montessori School would like to recognize Hershey alumna Melissa Kwitowski. Melissa began her first full-fledged position as a PhD clinical psychologist at the University of Colorado Department of Psychiatry in December 2020.
Melissa has expertise in women’s mental health and the management of chronic medical conditions. She provides outpatient psychotherapy services within the Department of Psychiatry with an emphasis on treating perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Melissa also serves as the psychologist on the Perinatal Behavioral Health Pathways program which provides mental health services for patients hospitalized on the labor and delivery and mother/baby unit at UC Health. Another of her roles in the Department of Psychiatry is conducting psychosocial candidacy evaluations for patients seeking auto-transplantation procedures for conditions such as Nutcracker Syndrome and Loin Pain Hematuria Syndrome. In this position, she assists in connecting medically complex individuals with appropriate care and coping resources before, during, and after surgical intervention.
Melissa says she is very proud of, and thankful for, her time at Hershey and how well it prepared her not only for higher education, but for working collaboratively and thinking critically.
Congratulations, Dr. Melissa Kwitowski, on all your hard-earned success. Your life-changing work gives us more hope for humanity, knowing young people like you are in leadership roles like this. We are all inspired by your achievements!
This month’s Alumni Spotlight features Ryan Harrington. Ryan has lived in many states across the U.S. during his life, including California, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan. He currently lives in Urbana, Illinois and is attending college at the University of IL at Urbana Champaign where he is pursuing his Master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering. While working on his studies, Ryan is also a Graduate Research Assistant at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Before moving to Illinois, Ryan completed his undergraduate degree in civil engineering at California Polytechnic State University.
Ryan came to Hershey Montessori School in 2001. He said his parents enrolled him at Hershey when the local kindergarten program wanted to hold him back until he had the proper communication and motor skills.
“My parents thought it was unacceptable that the school would hold their autistic child back for these deficiencies when their child could draw roadmaps for every freeway in the greater Cleveland area,” said Ryan. “My parents brought me to Hershey Montessori School because the program allowed students to learn topics by proficiency and rarely by age.”
Ryan stayed at Hershey for ten years, from 2001 through 2011, when his family moved to Chicago.
Below is our interview with Ryan.
How would your friends describe you and how does that compare with how you would describe yourself?
My friends would describe me as someone who could introduce you to any academic topic. I would describe myself as a down-to-earth realist.
What are your favorite places to go and favorite activities to do?
My favorite place to go is Bay View, MI, where I love to sail! I also enjoy hiking. The last mountain I was able to hike was San Gorgonio, which has an elevation of 11,503 feet! I also enjoy solving Rubik’s Cubes.
What has been your happiest moment to date?
My happiest moment was being re-elected as the president of my high school Science Olympiad team. It was a big deal not just because we achieved our highest placement at the state competition that year, but also because I had never known an autistic person who held a significant leadership position.
While I was taking a water quality class at the [Huntsburg Campus] farm, I asked my teacher about whether the treatment pond was filling up with debris over time. In response, she gave me access to a canoe, several feet of string, and a submersible weight to graph the profile of the pond. After comparing the data to that collected ten years ago, we found that the pond hardly changed. The “just go for it” attitude that I gained from that project is something I still carry with me.
What did you like most about Hershey?
I most enjoyed the lesson structure that Hershey Montessori School employed. Hershey helped me to learn by helping me to remember things. I learned by preparing and presenting my work to the whole class.
Who made the biggest impact on you and what was the impact that was made?
The person who made the biggest impact on my life was the principal [program director] at Hershey during my time there. She helped me to keep the fact that I was moving away confidential because I worried that students would treat me differently. Not only was she willing to convince the staff to keep that secret for an entire school year, but she was also willing to help me navigate a successful path onto my next school. The success of that agreement has allowed me to be a secret keeper for topics my friends and family do not want to discuss openly amongst others.
Tell us your favorite quote and your most important life lesson you’d like to share with others.
My favorite quotes is “The best and worst thing you can say to a student is ‘you can do better,'” and my most important life lesson to share is that everyone should live in a different location at least once in their lifetime.
And that is a life lesson that has definitely served you well, Ryan.
It has been great reconnecting with you. We are glad you are doing well. On behalf of your Hershey family, we wish you great, continued success in life and as you complete your Master’s program!
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.
An Interview with Hershey Montessori School Alumni
Hershey Montessori School delights in welcoming back its graduates and former students. We love to hear how they are tackling life and college after high school. We seek to know how their Montessori education helped shape and prepare them for the paths they chose. We love learning more about where they are today, and how their skills are helping them on life’s journey.
At the last alumni gathering, Hershey graduates shared with us what course of study they are pursuing and what university they are attending. We then asked them to speak to how they felt prepared for where they are on their journey. Below is what they shared.
Ilana Rosenheck ’18, Psychology, University of Cincinnati:“I think the farm, or Hershey or Montessori in general, has really prepared us for public speaking. We all did countless presentations and that really developed a confidence in all of us – or most of us. I feel like if we had an issue or a question, we all felt comfortable with going to our professors and talking to them just because we have that close relationship with the staff here. It’s something I feel like traditional schooling won’t teach their students.Hershey taught us about being a functioning adult. I feel like Hershey really prepared us for life.”
Cameron Zona ’18, Theater and Entrepreneurship, Lake Erie College:“Yeah, I have to agree. I was here on campus on Monday and I sat in on a class of Middle School students and they were giving presentations, and I was like ‘these presentations are better prepared and they have better public speaking skills than the students that are in some of my college classes.’ I was very impressed. I definitely think that it is something that when students graduate, they have a firm grasp on.”
Makenna Venaleck ’18, Chemical Engineering, Ohio University:“I don’t do a lot of presentations or public speaking in my area of study, but I will say that I felt very prepared to talk with my professors and have a little bit of an up because even though a lot of people in STEM are very good at math and science, they can’t really communicate what they are studying or how they are feeling or talk to their professors or to a potential employer. I went to the career fair and I felt very prepared because I could set aside ‘What are my skills? What are things that I am good at?’ and I could have a conversation with someone that maybe would employ me or was a professor. I felt very prepared for interpersonal communication.”
Erin Finan ’19, Journalism, Ohio University:“I think Hershey helped me (or Montessori) in a lot of ways, but especially when I went to college and I was trying to find my friend group. The people I connected with like at Hershey really helped me to know the kind of people I wanted to be around and know how to find my tribe. Taking that to college made it a lot easier to find people and know that these were the people that I wanted to spend time with and be around, and that I wanted to form my friend group with. I mean, college has more people so you have to adjust because of that, but you also have to know that there are people like you and for you at college that you’ll be able to connect with in the same way you connect with people here. You might have to look a little bit harder because it’s such a bigger environment, but like I said, Hershey helped me and a lot of us know who we wanted as our friends and the things we value. When we find those [values] in other people, it’s easier to make those connections.”
Elise Spintzyk ’18, Psychology, Ohio State University:“I think Hershey prepared us well because we had a lot of leadership opportunities. I think students who are looking to move forward into a graduate program or even to apply for a job are able to step into a leadership role. While you are in college that is something that is really important and important for your resumé. Already having had a leadership role with experience, I can bring that in as a freshman student when applying for a position on an executive board of a club, something in your department, or looking for a research position if that’s something you’re interested in. Those are things that you wouldn’t already be taking with you from most high schools. I think a lot of students haven’t had the opportunity to do so. When you step into those roles when you’re in college, you are very well prepared for them and you’re able to thrive in that position and keep moving forward.”
Thank you, alumni, for sharing how your Hershey Montessori School experience and skills have helped aid you in your college education and beyond. We are please that you were able to take leadership, communication, interpersonal skills, public speaking, real-life capabilities, and tools to navigate and find your way in the next steps of your education. We wish you all the best. We truly look forward to seeing you all again very soon!
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.
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.
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.
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.