As an eighth grader, Kay Oyegun ’05 made one of the first moves of her life when she moved from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Hershey to attend Milton Hershey School. After hearing about MHS from a family friend and convincing her mother to let her apply, she was accepted—which marked the beginning of several exciting transitions throughout her life.
“I was comfortable with newness and open to new things,” Kay said. “[The transition to MHS] was more of ‘How can I be myself in this place?’”
One of the ways Kay was able to feel at home was through the support of her teachers, peers, and her mother who she credits with being her rock and support system.
“I couldn’t have gotten through the process without her,” Kay said. “I would describe myself as willful, and [my mom] was always there to remind me of the goals we set when I arrived at MHS. I always felt safe and secure.”
Kay began writing letters to her mother every night with details about the exciting activities on campus. Her love of writing took off from there, and Kay found herself inspired by multiple opportunities at MHS. She participated in theater, worked in stage crew, wrote for school publications, joined the wrestling team, ran track, and even served on the Student Government Association.
“I’m a big believer that you attract the things you want for yourself,” Kay explained. “[At MHS] I wanted to have experiences, and I was able to find a true love and appreciation for the arts. It felt like a safe space and a safe home. For me, it was a place where I could be creative.”
After graduation, Kay enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh where she continued taking advantage of the endless opportunities around her. She graduated with degrees in journalism and business, as well as a minor in film studies and a certificate in digital media.
She graduated college and immediately moved to New York City where she worked as a news associate for NBC Nightly News. As she built connections with mentors and learned on the job, Kay relied on the sense of independence she developed at MHS.
“A lot of what I learned at MHS, both actively and organically, was a sense of independence,” she said. “I had to learn to find answers, and as I got older, that became a quickly realized skillset.”
Kay enjoyed the lively nature of news but she longed to work in fiction. She eventually made another move: this time, to Los Angeles. She completed the University of Southern California Peter Stark Producing Program to gain experience in film and television. In what she describes as ‘a town full of optimism and heartbreak,’ Kay continued to write and push herself creatively.
Her drive for excellence paid off. Kay received a staff writing position for “Queen Sugar”—a show created by Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey which premiered in September 2016 and is nominated for multiple NAACP Image Awards.
Kay went on to accept a second position as a staff writer for another show that premiered in September 2016 called “This Is Us.” With three Golden Globe nominations and three NAACP Image Award nominations, the show takes place in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York City, and Los Angeles. Kay’s knowledge of these cities, as well as her upbringing, personal experiences and writing style, were a good fit for the show’s writing team.
“It’s such a beautiful mix of driven, interesting, thoughtful, and funny writers. We’re incredibly honored by all the attention [the show has received],” Kay said. “We want to finish out a strong season and focus on the story we set out to tell.”
With two exciting shows in the works, how does Kay plan to continue finding success as a TV writer?
“This has to be the expectation [for myself], not the exception. I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else besides sitting down with an idea and then putting it out there,” she said. “It’s incredibly rewarding, but it’s also my life’s work. It’s a cumulative experience. It’s less about any one show in particular and more about the journey.”