Weeks 17 & 18: Chocolate

There were quite a few things we needed to accomplish at the end of the semester. Even though the Humphrey Fellowship is a non-degree program, we are graded for our credit classes and we have to do certain tasks for our audit and sit-in classes as well.

As part of my Computer Supported Collaborative Learning I moderated three heated discussions happening at the same time on the Penn State new collaboration platform, called "CREATE intelligent collaboration". It was interesting to see how different groups coped with the same problems, how these problems made some of them feel frustrated and disheartened, but also how teamwork helped them overcome issues and inspire them to lead some great conversations.

A blog post on our Class Blog and an Exit Interview were needed for my favorite class of the semester, Emerging Technologies.

For the Humphrey Seminar, I wrote a 5-page reflection paper and took part in a panel presentation on teacher education in Croatia, Mauritius, Myanmar and Nepal. After hearing all the presentations, I couldn't but feel sad because unlike in the above-mentioned country, the teaching profession in Croatia is spiralling downwards and right now this trend seems to be unstoppable.

Our coordinators organized the second Surprise Activity for us (the first one was the hayride). We did our best to make them reveal where they were taking us, but they were tough and didn't let it slip. We had all kinds of ideas on our mind, such as the Amish in Lancaster, the Governor in Harrisburg or the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia to mention just a few. Coffee was at stake, but none of us won it.

Where they took us exceeded our expectations. First we visited the Milton Hershey School, which M. Hershey and his wife Catherine founded in 1909. They couldn't have children and they felt morally obliged to give their wealth back to the community and so they founded this boarding school for orphans. Today 2000 students from underprivileged families from all over the U.S. study there at no cost to their families. We talked to some of the students and heard only a fraction of their sad and unfortunate stories and I can't even imagine what these children had been through before coming to this school, where, as one student put it, a million doors opened up for them. One of the school's alumni is the current CEO of the Hershey Chocolate Factory. Were it not for the Milton Hershey's vision and philanthropy,  he most likely wouldn't be where he is today.

The school is managed by the Hershey Trust Company. They spend about 100,000 $ per student per year and their annual budget is $ 8 billion! A percentage of each Hershey chocolate that is sold goes to this school. Now I really do have a reason to buy my favorite Hersheys.

From the Hershey School we went to the Hershey Chocolate World and from there to the Chocolate Ballroom for a dinner theater, A Chocolate Avenue Christmas. A very sweet end of the Fall Semester indeed!


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