When asked to describe Milton Hershey School, Alexandra Cruz ’07 automatically thought of the word ‘welcoming.’
“Because I came from similar backgrounds to everybody else, it didn’t matter what I’d been through or what I was going through at the moment,” said Alexandra. “There were always staff members and students who were willing to assist and welcome me into their family.”
Alexandra grew up homeless in a family who had never graduated from high school or attended college. As the first high school graduate in her family, she credits MHS with her drive and determination. “MHS gave me a sense of security I had never felt in my life before,” she said.
Alexandra attended Temple University where she graduated with a double major in theatre and Latin American studies. She took advantage of travel opportunities during her time as an undergraduate, and she lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina for six months during her junior year. She taught at several learning centers and schools in the Harrisburg and Lancaster areas before returning to Temple University to pursue a master’s degree in urban education. When she graduated in May 2014, she had a 3.97 GPA.
Alexandra is now pursuing a Ph.D. in public affairs with a concentration in community development at Rutgers University. She also is conducting a year-long study of a re-entry program for ex-offenders in the Camden federal courts and serving as secretary for the Philadelphia Chapter of the MHS Alumni Association.
Even though Alexandra is busy, she is thankful for the relationships she built at MHS — and the relationships she continues to build with other graduates who have supported her throughout her studies.
“I graduated in the class of 2007. I live in Philadelphia, and some of my closest friends are graduates from the 1980s,” Alexandra shared. “[MHS] is the only place in the world I’ve ever felt like…I’m just taken as I am and not judged. Regardless of the year that somebody graduated, they embrace me like they’ve known me their entire life.”