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Celebrating Leadership and PersistencePosted on April 27, 2016 at 6:17pm by Gary Hoachlander

Gary Hoachlander, President of ConnectEdTen years ago, the Milton Hershey School board invited me to observe and assess the school’s vocational educational programs, a longstanding part of the school’s mission since its founding in 1909. I was disappointed. I saw a traditional curriculum rooted in occupationally narrow instruction aimed at the segment of students presumed to be “non-college bound.”

I recently revisited the school during a career and technical education conference, Taking it to the Next Level, hosted by the school and Opportunity America. What a remarkable change! Today every high school student participates in one of eleven career pathways, such as Agriculture and Natural Resources, Engineering and Design, and Health Science.

Through partnerships with the Hershey Company, Hershey Entertainment Resorts, and Hershey Medical Center, students participate in a wide range of work-based learning experiences. Seniors also have dual enrollment opportunities at Temple University, Penn State, and Lebanon Valley College.

In 2015, 100 percent of the graduating seniors earned at least two industry-recognized certifications in their respective career pathways. More than 80 percent of seniors enrolled in postsecondary institutions, which included the Art Institute of New York, Howard University, and the University of Pennsylvania.

How did this transformation occur? Leadership and persistence. The board, the administration, and lead teachers embraced a new vision for the Hershey school and worked toward it over many years. They’d be the first to acknowledge that they’re still not finished.

The Hershey School is one of the wealthiest independent, boarding schools in the country. But unlike most other private institutions, it serves exclusively low-income children, pre-K through high school. How inspiring to see comprehensive, high-quality college and career pathways playing a critical role in delivering life-changing opportunities for some of the nation’s most disadvantaged young people. All of us in the Linked Learning field should aspire to this standard!


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