This LBC grad was a student at Milton Hershey. Now, she’s giving back.

by Melissa Turnpaugh ('17)

April 11, 2018

Posted in: Other

This article and photo originally appeared in Central Penn Business Journal and are republished here with permission.

I don’t consider myself a “trendy” person. But here I am. It’s 2018 and I am among the growing number of young professionals in what can only be described as a positive trend — the desire to work for a company with a purpose-driven mission.

Long gone are the days when you needed to check your do-gooder attitude at the door because it isn’t part of the corporate culture to do well by doing good on company time. More organizations are aligning themselves with a focus on positively impacting the world in some way. In the process, they are winning the hearts and minds of generations of workers, potential customers and thought leaders.

The pursuit of purpose has become so intrinsic to the fabric of young professionals’ career identities that it even shapes how long we’ll remain at a company. According to a 2016 PricewaterhouseCoopers study, millennials are five times more likely to stay with employers when they feel a strong connection with their employer’s purpose.

I was fortunate to start a career at an organization where my strong connection to my work is also a personal one.

After graduating from Lancaster Bible College in May 2017, I started working in the Home Life department at Milton Hershey School, a cost-free, private residential school for boys and girls in pre-K through 12thgrade from lower-income families across the country. It’s located in your figurative backyard, in Derry Township just a short drive away in Hershey.

The Hershey Co. founder and chocolatier Milton Hershey and his wife, Catherine, started the school in 1909 by donating their personal fortune to a trust that enables the school to care for students using a whole-child approach—providing everything from medical and dental care, to food, clothing, an excellent education, amazing facilities and the opportunity to accrue postsecondary scholarships.

While I know all of this from working there, I also know it because it’s the place I called home in high school. I’m an MHS alumna or, as we like to call ourselves, a “Milt.”

I readily admit that growing up, my life lacked stability. Electricity, health care, and even food weren’t always a guarantee. After my mom passed away, my grandparents enrolled me at MHS to give me the opportunity for a brighter future. It ended up being a life-changer and what set me on the purpose-driven path I’m on today.

One of the programs at MHS that made a big impact on me was Transitional Living (TL). In TL, seniors live in apartment-style residences — think college dorms — with students of the same gender. That set-up and the attention of the TL staff helped me develop time management skills and the sense of responsibility I needed for life after high school.

Today, I’m using my social work degree and life experiences, including my time living in TL, to do the same for high school girls at MHS as a Transitional Living Assistant. In a nutshell, I’m helping the 22 girls in my TL prepare to be independent following graduation. I help them manage their time, plan meals, budget and establish healthy habits.

To give you a better idea, a typical day for me looks something like this: I’m up early, and in my TL office by 6:45 a.m. I can’t beat the commute since I live in an apartment provided by the school, which is attached to the building where my TL girls live. Students check in with me before leaving for school by 7:15 a.m. I field their questions, collect and review their meal plans for the week, and keep an eye on their time management. After they leave, I do room checks to make sure appliances are off and apartments are clean.

Unless a meeting or training is scheduled, 8:30 a.m. begins “unscheduled time.” That’s my time to do as I choose.

At 2 p.m., I’m back in the TL office handling administrative duties until about 3 p.m. when my students start returning from school. A few days a week, we do a wellness activity together, like going for a walk. On school nights, I supervise dinner in the cafeteria and on non-school nights I make rounds and offer help while the girls cook in their TL. I assign chores by apartment, which rotate each month, and our TL meets twice a week in the evening to play a game or talk. Throughout the evening, I’m available to students if they need me — whether that’s homework help or they need a trusted adult to talk to. They can ring the doorbell of my apartment and I’ll be there, but I’m not always on call. I do have days off like everyone else.

I can work long hours and, at times, managing the personalities of teenagers is difficult. But I can honestly say the good days far outnumber the bad ones. To me, the time and effort is worth every minute to be part of growing a mission that is near and dear to my heart. I want to give the same support that MHS staff gave me; I want to be that influential role model in a student’s life.

This is a great job for a young professional because it gives you the opportunity to further develop your leadership skills, as well as your education through professional development, which is highly encouraged. MHS also offers a tuition reimbursement program that is rooted in the school’s commitment to lifelong learning. For those of us who don’t yet have the responsibilities of our own children, this job gives you a taste of parenthood and the things that are valuable to teach children.

If you are guided by a greater sense of purpose, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to separate your passion from your career or move out of the area to find it. There are jobs here in Central Pennsylvania where you can merge your passion to do good with a career that will grow you personally and professionally. I found it in Milton Hershey School. As the school grows to serve more students in need, so are the number of openings for positions that call for individuals who are knowledgeable, committed and motivated to make a difference.

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