Milton S. Hershey is born at his family’s homestead in Derry Township. As a boy, Milton has little education. His family is poor and moves often.
Each year at Milton Hershey School is a gift from our founders Milton and Catherine Hershey. During the 2018-19 school year, our MHS family was reminded of that as we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Mr. Hershey gifting nearly his entire hard-earned fortune so our school will forever serve children in need.
With the graduation of the Class of 2019, Mr. Hershey’s generosity has empowered nearly 11,000 alumni to go out into the world with the tools, knowledge, and support to navigate life and pursue their own definition of happiness and success.
This Brown and Gold Annual Report shares how Mr. Hershey’s gift 100 years ago lives on today in not only MHS as a school, but as a family and nurturing home 365 days a year. Thanks to the Hersheys, our curriculum, programs, and resources are best-in-class and helping the 2,119 students enrolled during the 2018-19 school year move beyond the challenges poverty has created in their lives to focus on their futures.
In this report, you will discover how we have continued to enhance our Career and Technical Education program, grown our postsecondary partnerships, and achieved outstanding academic results while expanding the number of students we serve and attaining the highest retention rate in 50 years. These have been major undertakings in the fourth year of our 2020 Vision strategic plan. I thank our students’ parents and sponsors for giving their children the opportunity to reach their potential at MHS, and our employees for upholding the Hersheys’ vision and using their talents to change our students’ lives.
As president, I am proud of the accomplishments of our students and staff this past school year. I look forward to leading our home and school into the future with the Hersheys’ example as our compass.
Peter G. Gurt '85 President
At a time when America’s most successful entrepreneurs were looking to build greater wealth, chocolate maker Milton S. Hershey was figuring out how he would give his away.
On Nov. 13, 1918, Mr. Hershey transferred the majority of his fortune, 5,000 shares of equity stock in the Hershey Chocolate Company, into a trust. Through that trust, the school he founded nine years earlier with his wife, Catherine, lives on forever helping children.
Milton S. Hershey is born at his family’s homestead in Derry Township. As a boy, Milton has little education. His family is poor and moves often.
After an unsuccessful printing apprenticeship, 14- year-old Milton becomes an apprentice at Joseph Royer’s Lancaster confectionery shop. Here, Milton discovers his gift for making candies.
At 18, Milton leaves Lancaster and moves to Philadelphia to establish a candy business with the support of his mother Fanny and Aunt Mattie. This first attempt fails and Milton is bankrupt.
While in Denver, Colorado, Milton learns the secret that would make his fortune— fresh milk makes good candy.
Milton launches his second candy business in New York City. With little capital and lots of competition, this business also fails.
Milton perseveres. He perfects a melt-in-your-mouth caramel, making his newly found Lancaster Caramel Company a huge success. He can now further explore chocolate making.
The Hershey Chocolate Company is founded and its first product, Hershey’s cocoa is introduced.
Milton Hershey and Catherine Sweeney marry in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Catherine has a profound influence on the philanthropy of her husband.
Milton sells his Lancaster Caramel Company for $1 million and devotes all his energy to making milk chocolate.
Milton and Catherine use their wealth to establish Hershey Industrial School (today MHS) and create a home and school for orphaned boys.
Mr. Hershey transfers the bulk of his fortune into a trust to ensure his school helps children forever.
The New York Times breaks the story of Mr. Hershey’s $60 million gift
This massive act of generosity was inspired by Mr. Hershey’s life experiences, including his childhood as a poor boy, his failures on his journey to success, and he and his wife’s inability to have children. True to his humble nature, Mr. Hershey’s $60 million gift, equal to more than $1.1 billion today, wasn’t known to the public until five years after it took place.
One hundred years later, his gift continues to be a catalyst for change—positively altering the lives of more than 2,100 current students and nearly 11,000 alumni while creating a larger family than he and Catherine could have ever imagined.
Men of wealth should, while they are still alive, give of their money for the betterment of their fellows, for they cannot take their wealth with them when they cease to exist here.
Parents and sponsors recognize their children’s vast potential and remarkable talents. Each takes their vision for their child’s future and breathes new life into it by enrolling them at MHS. This decision is the most courageous and selfless gift they ever share with their child.
This school year, we welcomed 434 new students along with their parents/sponsors into the Milton Hershey School family. We’ve discovered these students are more likely to earn higher grades, adapt well to school, and ultimately reach graduation day if their parents/sponsors feel connected to our school and their child’s experience.
My family saw all the things MHS could support me with, including housing, health care, sports, and college funding.
This inspired us to create initiatives that encourage parent/sponsor engagement like our Family Weekends, teacher social media updates, and livestreamed student events that make parents/sponsors a part of the crowd no matter their location. In 2018-19, we also held the inaugural Parent/Sponsor of the Year Awards to recognize parents/sponsors for their strength and dedication to our school. Our first honorees included Tennille Phillips, Holly Hockenberry, and StellaMaris Dike.
This commitment to our students’ and parents’/ sponsors’ experience contributed to a student retention rate of 93.3 percent—the highest in 50 years. It is also higher than the average retention rate of 90.54 percent for other independent schools across the country.
I am very proud to be Christian’s mother and on this journey with him. Helping my son reach his goals and dreams seemed beyond my scope until I realized how to use my resources.
We do life together.
Milton Hershey School students come from all over the United States. Those who attended during the 2018-19 school year represented 29 different states—coming from as close as our home state of Pennsylvania and as far away as Hawaii.
This past school year’s record-setting enrollment of 2,119 students included the largest enrollment of students in each division with 423 elementary students, 732 middle schoolers, and 964 high school students. Mr. Hershey’s gift enables us to grow responsibly so we can serve more students while upholding our high standard of care. Currently, that involves expanding by building new Middle Division student homes to support our strategic growth to 2,300 students.
ELEMENTARY Division Students
MIDDLE Division Students
SENIOR Division Students
As a residential school focused on serving low-income students, most obstacles students face stem from poverty. The average family income for students enrolled at MHS during the 2018-19 school year was $21,930, 15 percent below the federal poverty guideline of $25,750 for a family of four. Our ability to serve these students is strengthened by our commitment to understanding their backgrounds so we can meet and exceed their needs with tools and resources that help them overcome their challenges.
As the opioid crisis in the U.S. persists, we have experienced an increase in the number of new enrollees raised by grandparents or other family members. Over the last six years, the number of new students being raised by someone other than their biological parents has nearly doubled from 12 to 22 percent.
Thanks to our founder’s generosity, our students’ financial circumstances do not define them, their abilities, or their potential. Today’s students see a future much different than the one they envisioned for themselves before MHS.
In Pennsylvania, At Least 88,000 grandparents are Raising More Than 90,000 grandchildren
When the Hersheys founded Milton Hershey School, they wanted it to be a home as well as a school. Mr. Hershey shared that he wanted to give children “real homes, real comforts, education, and training.” Since then, MHS has invested in not only students’ education, but also their health and wellness—knowing both have a direct impact on children’s ability to learn.
Research shows students are less focused if they are hungry, sick, cold, in pain, or unable to properly see because they lack glasses. Milton Hershey School’s whole child approach to care removes these barriers to learning by providing all students with medical, dental, psychological, behavioral, and social work services, as well as clothing and nutritious food at no cost to their families.
We want our students to live happy, healthy lives while on campus and long after they graduate. That is why our staff also teach students healthy eating and exercise habits, as well as social and emotional learning techniques to maintain their personal health.
Part of Milton Hershey School’s commitment to students’ wellness is also providing students from at-risk home environments with a safe and nurturing home on campus year-round, not just when classes are in session. The Year- Round Experiences program gives students opportunities to explore their interests and build on classroom learning while remaining on campus during breaks. During the 2018-19 school year, 66 percent of all MHS students participated in at least one YRE activity. During the summer of 2019, 937 students, or 48 percent, participated in one or more weeks of summer YRE programming.
This past school year, the elementary school developed a creative way for students to stimulate their emotions and help manage their stress – an outdoor sensory garden. The space encourages students to explore their senses and understand how they can become calm through the use of sight, sound, smell, and touch. It has become an important tool for students’ social and emotional wellness.
The MHS elementary exercise club helps third- and fourth-grade students discover fun-filled ways to stay active. During 2018-19, 75 elementary students signed up for the club. They met twice a week for one-hour sessions. Students developed an appreciation for fitness and are more likely to stay active and maintain healthy habits throughout their lives.
In addition to best-in-class care, Mr. Hershey’s gift provides students with an unparalleled education—complete with state-of-the-art facilities, the latest technology, and curriculum focused on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), problem-solving principles, hands-on training, and enriching experiences that grow children’s mindset, character, and leadership abilities.
Whether students are academically gifted or arrive at MHS behind their peers due to stressors created by poverty, the school’s small class sizes, tutoring support, social and emotional learning, and resources are designed to ensure students have the opportunity to meet— and exceed—their academic goals while developing and pursuing their interests.
MHS students consistently exceed statewide averages on PSSA and Keystone exams—not just among other students who are economically disadvantaged, but also among all students in the state of Pennsylvania.
ED – Economically Disadvantaged
Source: Spring 2019 Pennsylvania Keystone
Exams State Content Area Summary Report
In 2019, the STEAM research projects of four MHS high school students were selected to be tested by astronauts 240 miles above the Earth’s surface aboard the International Space Station as part of the national Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP). The students watched their projects launch into space from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Less than 2 percent of the 19,000 project proposals submitted to SSEP since 2010 have been chosen for flight. The high schoolers will present their research findings during a national SSEP conference at the Smithsonian in 2020.
I’ve always been interested in this stuff—now I realize what it means to be in this field.
The school’s award-winning Career and Technical Education (CTE) program was born out of Milton S. Hershey’s own experience and support of technical training to ensure students are trained in “useful trades and occupations, so that they can earn their own livelihood.” As the workforce has transformed, so too has the CTE program. Today, it combines tailor-made instruction and hands-on learning with the ability for students to gain industry-recognized certifications and real-life experience through internships, co-ops, and now also pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships.
During the 2018-19 school year, MHS continued to enhance the CTE program. In September 2018, MHS added a second state-registered apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship for students in the Construction/Carpentry career path by partnering with Pyramid Construction Services. Students who complete their CTE coursework, as well as an internship or co-op experience, will earn a state-registered, pre-apprenticeship certificate, which counts toward the apprenticeship’s required on-the-job training and related technical instruction hours with Pyramid Construction Services. They will also earn up to 32 credit hours toward an associate’s degree with Harrisburg Area Community College. With more apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship opportunities in the works, MHS is creating additional opportunities for students who want to enter the workforce directly after high school or be ahead of their peers when continuing their studies at a postsecondary institution.
Staff members have developed strong partnerships with the local business community who offer MHS students meaningful internship experiences where they learn directly from professionals. This summer, 91 Senior Division students completed internships that matched their chosen career pathways—the largest number of students to participate in the summer internship program.
Hershey Entertainment & Resorts is a strong supporter of the MHS internship program and continues to collaborate with the school on inventive ways to give students real-world experience that aligns with their career interests.
MHS high school student on his construction internship with Pyramid Construction
MHS high school student on her education internship with the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg
MHS high school student on her culinary internship with Desserts Etc.
MHS high school student on his business and finance internship with Hershey Lodge
During the 2018-19 school year, 72 students traveled to international locations that included England, France, Costa Rica, Switzerland, and Austria. Another 43 spent time giving back to the community in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, during the second annual Domestic Service Learning trips.
The international trip was a life-changing experience for me. I gained so many friendships and life lessons. It helped me realize how many opportunities the world has to offer me—I just have to work hard and take them.
For the 216 members of the Class of 2019, walking across the stage at Commencement is a celebration of their hard work. It is also a time to reflect upon the Hersheys’ gift and how it will shape their future as they leave campus to pursue their postsecondary goals.
Commencement speaker Marrika Phillips reminded her peers of the knowledge they have gained at MHS and the role they now play in the continued legacy of Milton and Catherine Hershey.
The legacy given to everyone on this stage is a second chance, and we will continue with the awareness that knowledge is OUR power to shape minds, hearts, and the future.
Of the 216 graduates in the Class of 2019, 85% (184 students) plan to pursue a form of postsecondary education
COMPLETED Advanced Placement courses
COMPLETED Temple University program
COMPLETED at least one internship
ENROLLED during elementary school
HOURS CONTRIBUTED to the local community through service projects
Milton Hershey School’s support for its students does not end at graduation day. The school’s Graduate Programs for Success (GPS) Division marked its fourth year providing individualized support to graduates during their next step in life—whether college or technical school, the workforce, or the military.
Studies show that 90 percent of low-income, first-generation college students do not graduate on time and many never do. As a result, the GPS Division continued its focus on strengthening MHS graduates’ postsecondary experiences by developing partnerships with postsecondary institutions that include individual academic counseling, mentoring, retention support, employment assistance, and more.
During the 2018-19 school year, the number of these partnerships grew from 15 to 20 with the addition of Messiah College, Mount Saint Mary’s University, University of Pittsburgh, Widener University, and Wilkes University.
In addition to helping MHS graduates, the partnerships aim to improve national graduation outcomes. In June 2019, MHS shared its expertise in this area with more than 20 colleges and universities at the first Student Success Symposium by sharing insight on the barriers that first-generation college students face and how they can better serve those students.
Our goal is to equip our graduates with the tools and resources to successfully navigate their educational journey. Students will receive focused and sustained support that will help them conquer challenges, celebrate triumphs, and ultimately persist and successfully graduate from college.
When Milton and Catherine Hershey created our school in 1909, they had a clear vision for helping children. Today, as we approach 11,000 alumni, the true number of lives Mr. Hershey’s gift has impacted is immeasurable.
The opportunities, resources, and change provided through the Hersheys’ generosity have made a difference for our students and alumni, as well as the lives they have in turn touched with their helping hands and caring hearts. During the 2018-19 school year, they proved they are a force for positive change through their everyday actions and long-standing commitments.
MHS 2019 Alumnus of the Year William C.B. Harding ’78 is changing lives by creating solutions to global health care challenges through the development of new and improved medical devices. The sole inventor of the first wireless pacemaker and co-inventor of countless other medical devices, he credits his time at MHS with inspiring his career path in the biomedical field, where he is helping transform medical products and services for people around the world.
Besides saving my life, MHS gave me the education and environment to develop into an individual with no regrets, who tries to make a significant difference and who optimistically looks forward to every day.
Alumna Sesay Bayoh ’12 decided to give back by returning to MHS as a Transitional Living Assistant after graduating with a degree in human services from Messiah College. The support Sesay received from her TL staff as a student when she lost her mother has inspired her to help her students deal with the traumatic experiences in their lives.
I love being a part of their journey.
During the summer of 2019, a group of high school students volunteered their time to prepare and serve 1,600 meals as part of Cocoa Packs, a food assistance program benefiting Hershey residents in need. For these students, some who experienced food insecurity themselves before coming to MHS, it was their way of paying it forward to others.
It’s probably one of the best feelings in the world to know you made an impact on others’ lives.
Going above and beyond for students is part of the job for MHS employees. While staff duties and responsibilities differ across campus, everyone is working to ensure children with less opportunity are given every opportunity to succeed.
Inspired by the Hersheys’ example, today’s employees are making good on the school’s 2020 Vision strategic plan to ignite staff engagement by building positive, meaningful connections with students and pursuing professional excellence. Their commitment to mission, experience, and drive makes the MHS campus a lively community where students flourish.
These girls want to invest in themselves, learn leadership skills, and create a sisterhood with each other. I’m proud to bring that together for them.
For MHS Student Program Leader Sharice Johnson, serving students has involved creating new opportunities for them to shine. She created the school’s first all-girls conference, known as Girls Grace. During the 2018-19 school year, the event marked its third year building leadership and unity among female students.
Growing up, I had female figures in my life, but they didn’t always have a positive influence on me. Once I enrolled at Milton Hershey School, the game changed. I slowly began breaking down the stereotypes of women and replacing them with an exciting reality – I could be whatever I wanted and I was free to embrace who I was.
Thanks to Mr. Hershey’s gift 100 years ago, Milton Hershey School thrives as a home and school for boys and girls from across the country. During the past year, we have succeeded in building upon the world-class education and support we offer our students through our 2020 Vision strategic plan so they can graduate ready to lead happy, healthy, and productive lives.
Our founders’ vision continues to lead the work and direction of our school so the focus will always be on our students – as Mr. and Mrs. Hershey intended.