In my 38 years with Milton Hershey School, 13 years as a student and 25 as part of our staff, I have come to know this campus as not only a school, but also a home. It changed the course of my life and continues to do so for thousands of boys and girls from low-income families across the country.
Part of the magic of Milton Hershey School is that it provides stability, a home, and support at a time when young people need it most. Here, students don’t have to worry about daily necessities. For the first time in their lives, they have the chance to focus on themselves and what their futures can be. When they step on this campus, they find a world of opportunity where doors begin to open, insights develop, and passions form.
In this Brown and Gold Annual Report, you will discover how our excellent education, award-winning programs, dedicated staff, and steadfast commitment to providing all students with a whole child approach to care come together to empower our students to dream big and pursue those dreams.
Our employees understand it’s their job to inspire our students and help them unlock their potential so they can define and reach their definition of success. It is gratifying to know our employees love their work—voting MHS among the Best Places to Work in PA for the fourth consecutive year.
As we begin the fourth year of our five-year 2020 Vision strategic plan, we are seeing firsthand the product of our hard work to expand our mission, deliver a top-notch education, and ignite exceptional staff performance. During the past year, we have completed the first phase of our Legacy Campus expansion to grow to 2,300 students. We also have implemented the first state-registered pre-apprenticeship program through our Career and Technical Education program, and received an International SOS Foundation Duty of Care Award for our proven ability to support and protect students who travel internationally through our Multicultural and Global Education program.
As MHS President, I am honored to lead our school forward with a clear vision for how we can help make the dreams of more children living in poverty come true.
Peter G. Gurt '85 President
Milton S. Hershey had a dream. Over the course of his life, it changed direction, was threatened by failure, and evolved into something grand and selfless.
As a poor boy growing up in Central Pennsylvania, young Milton Hershey could have been a candidate for the school he later founded in 1909. His dream of becoming a successful businessman was met with years of disappointment. However, driven by the courage to pursue his passions, Mr. Hershey found success in caramels, which fueled his entry into the chocolate industry.
At his chocolate company, he aspired to bring a confectionary experience to the masses, not just the wealthy, and in doing so amassed a fortune himself. But Mr. Hershey’s dream grew far beyond acquiring wealth for his own benefit when he and his wife Catherine created a vision for a school that would bring opportunity to more than 10,000 alumni. Today, Milton Hershey School is helping more than 2,000 boys and girls from low-income families pursue their own dreams thanks to the Hersheys’ generosity and Mr. Hershey’s courage to always follow his dreams.
For children living in poverty, dreaming is a luxury they can’t afford. For many, their ability to concentrate on school or future aspirations is overtaken by worry about where their next meal will come from.
According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, one in every five children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold. That’s 15 million, or 21 percent of all children in the United States.
The average family income for students enrolled in 2017-18 was $21,356, 15 percent below the federal poverty guideline of $25,100 for a family of four. However, with our school’s commitment to providing a whole child approach to education, including comprehensive health and wellness care, students are overcoming the obstacles poverty has created in their lives and turning their dreams into reality.
MHS is focused on expanding its mission to provide more low-income children with life-changing opportunity than ever before by growing enrollment to 2,300 students. During the 2017-18 school year, enrollment reached 2,067 students, the largest in school history, while maintaining a retention rate of 91 percent. The school also experienced the largest enrollment of elementary and middle school students in our nearly 109 years with 415 elementary students and 712 middle schoolers.
“As a student here, I learned that the act of dreaming is a response to opportunity.”
During his MHS commencement speech, alumnus Kevin Martinez ’16 admitted he gave up dreaming at the age of 8. It took his time at MHS to reassert to him that dreams were indeed accessible through the opportunities at the school. Today, Kevin is studying anthropology and serves as a leader in the Aspiring Minority Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs at Georgetown University where his dreams continue to evolve.
Parents/sponsors describe their decision to enroll a child at MHS as the hardest and best decision they will ever make. Most students know the date of their enrollment like they know their birthday. It is the beginning of something great and the day many begin dreaming again.
Making new students feel welcomed and supported is top of mind for staff members who spend their time ensuring each student’s transition to MHS is a smooth one. With mentoring opportunities and programs like Co-Pilot, New Spartan Academy, and Spartan Sponsor Academy leading the way, students and their families are given additional tools to make them truly feel a part of the MHS family. As a result, the retention rate for new students was 92 percent and parents/sponsors feel more connected to their children and the school.
More than 70,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2017, a rise of nearly 10 percent from the previous year. A major reason is the growing number of Americans using opioids—an epidemic creating adverse effects felt throughout families.
Over the last five years, MHS has seen a consistent increase in the number of new enrollees being raised by grandparents or other family members—largely due to the opioid crisis. For these caregivers, the responsibility is met with heightened challenges connected to finances, age, medical issues, and more.
At MHS, these children receive the holistic care they need to transcend their circumstances, including counseling and support to constructively deal with the emotions associated with a family member’s addiction. During the 2017-18 school year, MHS created events specifically designed to inform grandparent caregivers about the opportunities the school has to offer their grandchildren and other resources available to assist them.
When a child’s dreams meet opportunity, amazing things can happen. At Milton Hershey School, children from poverty gain access to exceptional education programs and resources, character and leadership development, college and career preparation, and health and wellness support that enable them to create a pathway to their dreams.
Founder Milton S. Hershey firmly believed education and training were essential to young people leading fulfilling and productive lives. That belief led to the early creation of challenging and career-focused curriculum at the school. Today’s rigorous curriculum includes STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), problem-solving principles, and hands-on, technical training that aligns with the current job market.
With a strong foundation in place, students are prepared for life after MHS—whether attending a postsecondary or technical institute, beginning a career, or enlisting in the military.
Milton Hershey School’s award-winning Career and Technical Education (CTE) program prepares students to graduate both college- and career-ready by combining tailor-made instruction and hands-on learning with the ability to gain industry-recognized certifications and real-life experience through internships and co-ops. Students are introduced to the CTE program’s 11 career pathways as early as elementary school.
In February 2018, MHS introduced its first hybrid apprenticeship in its Culinary Arts/Restaurant Management Services career pathway. Through a partnership with Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, students have the opportunity to complete a pre-apprenticeship comprised of authentic work experience at a co-op with relevant coursework that leads to a full-time apprenticeship with the company following graduation. It is the first state-registered pre-apprenticeship in Pennsylvania, and work continues on pre-apprenticeships for other career pathways in the CTE program.
100% of 2012-2018 graduates earned at least 1 industry-recognized certification
95% of 2018 graduates earned at least 3 industry-recognized certifications
89% of 2018 graduates earned at least 4 industry-recognized certifications
37% of 2018 graduates gained authentic work experience through internships, co-ops, or diversified occupations experiences
MHS students consistently exceed statewide averages on PSSA and Keystone exams—not just among other students who are economically disadvantaged, but among all students in Pennsylvania.
Students scoring proficient or above on the PSSA (grades 3-8) and Keystone (high school) exams.
ED – Economically Disadvantaged
Source: Spring 2018 Pennsylvania Keystone
Exams State Content Area Summary Report
In addition to career training, MHS high school students have the opportunity to earn college credits before graduation with college level courses offered through Temple University, Lebanon Valley College, Elizabethtown College, Harrisburg Area Community College, and Carlow University.
Part of our commitment to providing an excellent education involves enhancing students' understanding of other cultures to build strong character and increase their global awareness—traits valued in today’s workforce. The Multicultural and Global Education program incorporates global lessons into all students’ curriculum while enabling high schoolers to travel inside and outside the United States to experience different cultures firsthand.
In addition to three international trips during the 2017-18 school year, the program launched its domestic service learning experiences. Forty-nine high school students participated in one of three trips to Fayette County, Pennsylvania, an area affected by rural poverty, to give back and help others experiencing hardship.
The Compass Project, our school’s transformative character and leadership development program, combined with hundreds of extracurricular opportunities, empowers students of all ages to challenge themselves in new ways, explore their interests, and nurture their leadership skills.
By participating in activities, from athletics and visual and performing arts to scouting and student government, students become more invested in their school experience, including their academics.
Percentage of students who consistently followed our code of conduct
The negative effects of poverty are not limited to finances or socioeconomic status. Children’s physical health, emotional development, and educational achievement also suffer, often throughout their lives, when there is little or no access to health and wellness services or necessities like food and clothing.
At Milton Hershey School, we provide students with best-in-class care using a whole child approach that allows students to overcome the obstacles that stem from poverty and live out their dreams. The school provides medical, dental, psychological, behavioral, and social work services, as well as clothing for students at no cost to their families.
While providing health and wellness services, staff teach students healthy eating and exercise habits, as well as social and emotional well-being techniques so they can maintain their personal health after their time on campus.
When it comes to exercise and physical activity, MHS students are above state and national averages. Last school year, 81 percent of MHS middle school students and 73 percent of high school students achieved 60 or more minutes of physical activity each day.
“If I didn’t come to MHS, they would have never found my cancer.”
The health and wellness care alumna Holly Dixon ’17 received as a student helped save her life. Through regular medical care, Holly was diagnosed with chronic eosinophilic leukemia. The MHS community rallied around her while she underwent treatment. Today, Holly is in remission and working toward her dream of becoming an elementary school teacher by studying at The Pennsylvania State University where she will graduate with a master’s degree.
What makes Milton Hershey School truly unique is that we provide our students with care and a safe home on campus 365 days a year. Our Year-Round Experiences (YRE) program provides students from at-risk home environments with a nurturing home during breaks coupled with programs and activities where they can explore their interests and build on their classroom learning. During the 2017-18 school year, 59 percent of all students participated in at least one YRE activity. During the summer of 2018, 921 students, or 49 percent, participated in one or more weeks of summer YRE programming.
High school student Lester Huang was accepted and participated in a highly-selective college-level engineering innovation course with Johns Hopkins University. The YRE experience allowed Lester to explore his interest in engineering.
The job of every MHS employee can be simplified into a single concept—to be a difference maker for students.
From daily job responsibilities to mentoring students on their own time and even creating programs and events that let students know they are cared for, employees have stepped up in every way imaginable to answer the challenge of the school’s 2020 Vision strategic plan to ignite staff engagement by building meaningful connections with students.
Staff members are proving to students that dreams are accessible. On campus, students receive the strong support of a family-like community whose members are united in their quest to help them reach their potential.
By continually pursuing professional growth, employees demonstrate their devotion to providing our growing number of students with the best possible care—all while modeling to students that you never stop learning or working toward your dreams.
“I wasn’t their son, but they made me feel like I was part of their family. It showed me how much I was loved at the school.”
Alumnus Jesper Andersson ’17 credits his MHS houseparents with helping him realize the importance of family and deal with the loss of his grandfather. Their support created a foundation for Jesper to excel. Today, he is a mechanical engineering student at Harvard University.
To the 218 members of the Class of 2018, Milton Hershey School is the place where their dreams were set into motion. The lessons and values they learned while at MHS have helped them become the people they are today and prepared them to tackle their postsecondary goals.
As Commencement speaker Felicity Torres explained to the family and friends celebrating her and her fellow graduates, every member of the MHS community plays a vital role in students’ ability to reach graduation day.
Students who attend MHS share a unique and unbreakable bond. Lovingly referring to one another as Milt brothers and sisters, the school’s more than 10,000 alumni form a strong network of support that continues throughout their lives. Alumni mentor one another, share career and life advice, and serve as family.
Alumna Kimberly Elenberg ’88, Director of Joint Force Fitness for the Department of Defense, makes it a point to share her connections to help advance the careers of fellow MHS graduates. Kimberly helped alumnus Vincent Dong ’15 secure an internship with the Department of Defense where he gained valuable experience to further his personal project at Georgetown University to help first-generation college students gain access to more affordable mental health care.
Every graduate’s path to success is different. Whether entering college, the workforce, or the military, all MHS alumni receive comprehensive and individualized support through the school’s Graduate Programs for Success (GPS) Division.
Dedicated career counselors and transition specialists support students and alumni of all ages with on-campus visits, interview tips, resume help, time management resources, college application and writing assistance, and more. Continued support following graduation helps alumni’s dreams turn into reality.
The GPS Division is continually working to identify new ways to foster graduate success. During the 2017-18 school year, it developed partnerships with 15 postsecondary institutions across the state of Pennsylvania so MHS graduates receive additional tools, resources, and individualized support to navigate their educational experience as first-generation college students.
Thanks to the built-in support and commitment of staff, MHS graduates go on to higher education at significantly higher percentages than the national average. Over the past 10 years, 77 to 89 percent of MHS graduates attended a postsecondary institution compared to the national average of 66 to 70 percent.
“They are one of the biggest differences between me walking away with no degree versus me now on track to finish with two degrees.”
The first year of college for alumnus Elijah Campos ’15 was rocky. External circumstances placed additional strain on him, causing him to withdraw. That was when Elijah experienced firsthand the wraparound support of the GPS program. A transition specialist counseled Elijah and assisted him with enrolling at Harrisburg Area Community College. He is on track to graduate with an associate’s degree and plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in music business technology.
The Milton Hershey School community is an undeniable force in bringing hope, dreams, and opportunity to children who may have believed those things didn’t apply to them because of their financial background. Through our 2020 Vision strategic plan, we are continuing our journey to make an even greater impact on more children through excellent educational programs and resources, wraparound care, and a dedicated and highly trained staff.
With the Hersheys’ vision as our compass, we continue to challenge our school and staff for the benefit of the growing number of students we serve. At MHS, we’re not just a school, we’re a family.
Strength of Character and Deliver a Top-Notch Education
Staff Engagement and Exceptional Performance