Brown & Gold Annual Report 2019-20 Brown & Gold Annual Report 2019-20


Milton Hershey School Campus Photo

State of the School

When we kicked off the 2019-20 school year with our Opening of School Assembly, we had no idea its “Be Golden” theme would become a uniting force among the Milton Hershey School community during a global pandemic.

At MHS, we know that being “golden” is not about perfection. It is embracing who you are and the knowledge and skills you have gained to push through adversity. In the past year, we learned that while we cannot control the circumstances that surround us, we can control how we choose to react. I am so proud of the way our students, staff, parents/sponsors, and alumni have responded to the challenges of COVID-19 with optimism, compassion, and commitment.

The school year was unlike anything we have ever experienced in our 110 years. From the start of the pandemic, we saw the importance of keeping our school healthy and open so our students had necessary resources and parents/sponsors had peace of mind knowing their children were in a safe place.

While at the midpoint of the 2020-21 school year, this report gives us the opportunity to reflect on the collective efforts that created a successful 2019-20 school year. As we navigated the pandemic and provided excellent care, we also continued growing our multifaceted support system for alumni and students by expanding partnerships with colleges, universities, and business groups—giving them a head start on their careers, including the trades. Additionally, we launched the newest pathway in our Career and Technical Education program—Education and Human Services—and implemented our third state-registered pre-apprenticeship.

The school year culminated with a heartwarming Commencement Weekend and the conclusion of our 2020 Vision strategic plan. As we transition to our next strategic plan, the MILT Plan, our dedication to the Hersheys' mission is stronger than ever.


Peter G. Gurt ’85 MHS President

Peter G. Gurt
Milton & Catherine Hershey

110 Years & Counting


On Nov. 15, 1909, founders Milton S. and Catherine Hershey signed the Deed of Trust establishing Milton Hershey School as a home and school for children in need.

During the 2019-20 school year, we marked our 110th year as a place where a child’s potential is met with life-changing opportunity.

Deed of Trust
Quote Outline Milton S. Hershey Portrait

I had no idea when it started that it would ever reach these proportions.

MILTON S. HERSHEY The New York Evening Telegram
November 25, 1923

While our programs and curriculum have evolved with the changing times, the same commitment and approach to holistic care remains. In the spring of 2020, our expertise as a residential school prepared us to navigate the global COVID-19 pandemic so we could continue to provide care, resources, and support to our students during a time when they truly needed us most.

The Hersheys’ proud legacy and the mission they created in 1909 are woven into everything we do and will guide us for the next 110 years and beyond.

MHS Family Holding Signs

The Future Starts Here


Photo of MHS Student

"I know how smart she is and how much she loves learning. I felt this would be the right opportunity for her. Having stability and knowing she’s safe is really important to me. I can’t think of a better place than to have her here."

LISA PEEK MHS Grandparent/Sponsor

Quote Outline Milton S. Hershey Portrait

Being from a small town, I'm excited about all the stuff I can do here and the activities at MHS.


More families than ever are choosing to expand their children’s world of opportunity by enrolling them at Milton Hershey School. During the 2019-20 school year, MHS reached a record-setting enrollment of 2,189 students—the largest number of students to attend MHS in its 110-year history.

This included 446 new students who, along with their parents/sponsors, were formally welcomed into the MHS family during one of our Enrollment Day events. The day celebrates each student’s milestone. It’s also a time for reflection, with many parents/sponsors sharing hope for their child’s future and the reason they decided to enroll them.

446 new students

During each Family Weekend:

500+ parents/sponsors shadowed their child in the classroom
55% of students were visited by a parent/sponsor
Lydia Danielski

I want him to be the best version of himself. He wasn’t thriving at home, and he will here. I want him to have options in the world because he got an education.


Zainab Bassie

I enrolled my kids here for them to focus and do something better for themselves.


Taletha Burney

He needs more positive role models in his life. He has positive people around him, but the more, the better.


Nekeya Miller

I just want her to be the best she can be. We know others who attended and they have great jobs and a very good education.


Dale Somers

With finances being tight sometimes, there are opportunities here that there’s no way we can give him.

DALE SOMERS MHS Parent/Sponsor

"We are committed to partnering with our parents/sponsors so they feel engaged with the school and connected to their child, even if they are separated by distance."

SHAUN TURNER MHS Senior Director of Enrollment Management and Family Relations

MHS Student in Classroom

Parents/sponsors staying connected to MHS helps fuel their students' success. During the 2019-20 school year, we continued the many initiatives—like Family Weekends, teacher social media accounts, livestreamed student events, Spartan Sponsor Academy, and more—that encourage parent/sponsor engagement.

With the spring onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the MHS Family Relations team developed the first-ever Virtual Family Weekend to provide an online, interactive experience so parents/sponsors could stay actively engaged in their students' achievements while keeping everyone safe and healthy.

MHS Student

Our Students

MHS Student at Desk

All students who attend MHS come from low-income families across the country. MHS affords these students the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty with a top-notch education and support that doesn’t end at graduation day.

Students are united as much by their differences as their similarities. The diverse makeup of our student body produces a welcoming, inclusive environment that promotes cognitive thinking and creativity, and encourages students to learn from one another’s cultural backgrounds and experiences.

Our student enrollment continued to grow in response to our school’s strategic planning. With the expansion of 32 new Middle Division student homes on our Legacy Campus, enrollment reached the highest in school history with 2,189 students.

Our 93.2 percent retention rate stayed consistent with last year’s 50-year high of 93.3 percent. It was higher than the average retention rate of 90.36 percent for other independent schools across the country. Our new student retention rate was even higher at 95.1 percent.

The average family income for students enrolled at MHS during the 2019-20 school year was $22,219—15 percent below the federal poverty guideline of $26,200 for a family of four.

Peak Enrollment Statistics

  • 0
  • 0
  • 0
  • 0
  • 0
  • 2014-15
  • 2013-14
  • 2012-13
  • 2011-12
  • 2010-11

Student Retention Rates

  • 0%
  • 0%
  • 0%
  • 0%
  • 0%
  • %
  • %
  • %
  • %
  • %



Students enrolled
at MHS


Students from
Dauphin, Lebanon, or
Lancaster counties


Students from
other PA counties


Students from
other U.S. states


States represented
at MHS

Pin #11 of Student on Map of United States Pin #10 of Student on Map of United States Pin #4 of Student on Map of United States Pin #5 of Student on Map of United States Pin #2 of Student on Map of United States Pin #3 of Student on Map of United States Pin #1 of Student on Map of United States Pin #6 of Student on Map of United States Pin #7 of Student on Map of United States Pin #8 of Student on Map of United States Pin #9 of Student on Map of United States
MHS Students Embracing Each Other
Shape Highlighting MHS Student in Photo 50% Male
Shape Highlighting MHS Student in Photo 50% Female
MHS Students Standing Together in Hallway
39% 39% White
31% 31% Black
18% 18% Hispanic
10% 10% Multiracial
1% 1% Asian
Less than 1% less than 1% Native American
Less than 1% less than 1% Hawaiian / Pacific Islander

The number of grandparents raising grandchildren among new students has nearly doubled from

7.9% in 2013-14 to
13% in 2019-20

Retention Rate

MHS: 93.2%
Other Independent Schools: 90.36%

Student Diversity

MHS: 61%
Other Independent Schools: 33%

Annual Cost to Families

MHS: $0
Other Independent Schools: $60,600*
*Average 7-Day Boarding School

Of New Students enrolled during the 2019-20 school year

% have a family member incarcerated
% experienced family drug or alcohol issues
% have mental health issues in their family
MHS Student Spinning Basketball

Whole Child Care


MHS Students Eating Lunch

Our founders’ generosity and vision have enabled us to develop and maintain a whole child approach to education and programming that comes at no cost to our students or their families. Wraparound services and resources that include medical, dental, psychological, behavioral, social work, food, clothing, and a nurturing home life help address the specific challenges children from poverty face.

Our most critical focus in 2020 has been successfully navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges it created to deliver unparalleled care to our students. As a life-sustaining organization, MHS never closed during the pandemic. We modified operations to provide essential care and wraparound support and resources to our students during a trying time.

MHS Students in Classroom

MHS Student in Classroom
1,309 eye glasses for students
12,580 visits to MHS dental services
25,669 visits to MHS health clinics
3,254 immunization visits
MHS Student in Field with Bugcatcher MHS Students on Playground MHS Students Fishing

Year-Round Care

Our Year-Round Experiences (YRE) program gives students from at-risk home environments a safe place with opportunities to explore their interests and build on classroom learning while remaining on campus during breaks.

MHS Students Swimming

During the summer of 2020, many parents/sponsors chose for their students to remain on campus or returned them to campus so they would benefit from the quality care, comprehensive health measures, and safe environment MHS has to offer during the ongoing pandemic. The pandemic and its circumstances have disproportionally affected low-income families, making our school’s role in their lives increasingly important.

As part of YRE, we created COVID Support Intervention (CSI), a summer learning program to help students who needed additional support avoid “COVID slide” or learning loss as a result of disruptions caused by the pandemic. The program put students who struggled at the end of the school year back on the right track for the 2020-21 school year.

MHS Students in Classroom

MHS Students Cooking
50% of MHS students participated in at least one 2019-20 YRE activity
37% of all students participated in one or more weeks of summer YRE programming
MHS Student at a Desk

Foundation for Success


MHS Student at a Piano

Our approach to education is multifaceted. In addition to wraparound support and resources, our students benefit from a top-notch education with a focus on college and career readiness, character building, and leadership development.

In the past year, we continued our work to bring even more opportunity to our students, helping them build a strong foundation for success now and in the future.

MHS Students in Dance Class

MHS Engineering Student MHS Students at a Classroom Table MHS Student at Computer

College and Career Readiness

MHS knows there is no one path to success. We believe in giving students a variety of opportunities and resources that align with their interests and goals.

Our commitment to college and career readiness is engrained in our award-winning Career and Technical Education (CTE) program which continues to evolve to meet workforce needs and trends. At the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, we launched our 12th CTE career pathway, Education and Human Services. This new pathway exposes students to the in-demand career opportunities in these industries while also helping them learn about employer expectations as they gain valuable skills.

MHS Student working at a Printer

In addition, we added a third state-registered pre-apprenticeship to offer students more authentic work experiences and training before graduation. This pre-apprenticeship in graphic communication technology joins our existing culinary arts and carpentry pre-apprenticeships.

"Students are set up for a lifetime of postsecondary and career success through the school's commitment to each learner's career exploration, academic preparation, and technical skill building. They are a fantastic example of what providing equitable CTE can and should look like."

KIMBERLY GREEN Advance CTE Executive Director

Authentic work experiences build on classroom lessons by giving students opportunities to learn directly from professionals. Nathaniel Boyd ’20 turned his Spartan Internship into a research lab assistant position at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center while still a student. Working alongside Dr. Nancy Lill of the Penn State Cancer Institute, his work focused on finding therapies for triple negative breast cancer. Nathaniel also took advantage of the dual-enrollment program at MHS, earning 20 college credits before graduating.

Nathaniel isn't acting like a research assistant at the high school level. We are treating him like he is one of our graduate students in the lab.

Penn State Cancer Institute

MHS Students in Court Room

137 high school students earned college credits during 2019-20

10th Graders

12 earned college credits

11th Graders

65 earned college credits

12th Graders

60 earned college credits

MHS Student Welding

63 seniors in the Class of 2020
completed internships

Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pennsylvania Department of Education cancelled all PSSA testing and Keystone exams for the 2019-20 school year. Therefore, no data is available for these assessments.

100% of 2012-2020 graduates earned at least 1 industry-recognized certification
91% of 2020 graduates earned at least 3 industry-recognized certifications
1,281 total industry-recognized certifications were earned by the Class of 2020
35% of 2020 graduates gained authentic work experience through internships, co-ops, or diversified occupations experiences

Creating Global Thinkers

Our Multicultural and Global Education program incorporates global lessons into all levels of student curriculum, pre-K through 12th grade. Multicultural experiences inspire students to become global thinkers and achieve career success in a globally connected world.

The November 2019 trip to Panama opened the eyes of 27 high school students to the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math in creating solutions to global problems. Students participated in hands-on fieldwork studies with local biologists, including a wetlands conservation project focused on mangrove reforestation.


seniors traveled


high school students
traveled internationally
since the program
started in 2015


different countries visited
since the program began in 2015

20 Students Visited Panama
"This experience helped me to see that science and biology are things that I was truly passionate about and interested in studying as a part of my future after MHS."
KENNEDY WALKER MHS High School Student
MHS Students in Panama
Pin on Map of the World Pin on Map of the World


In the spring, the pandemic changed everyday life around the world, including the way students learn. MHS continued learning virtually with no interruption as a result of our previous 2020 Vision work to create a one-to-one technology learning environment for all students.

MHS Student in Field with Bugcatcher MHS Students on Playground

Many students remained on campus and continued classes online with the support of their houseparents, while other students returned to their home communities and participated remotely. MHS teachers and staff worked diligently to transition to remote teaching plans and keep students engaged, safe, and healthy.

MHS Student in Field with Bugcatcher MHS Students on Playground
Christine Fisher

MHS staff developed creative alternatives to in-person learning. One example is the partnership between The Hershey Company and MHS high school Spanish classes. Students virtually connected with employees through the Hispanos Exitosos program to keep communicating with professionals in the target language and learning from their expertise.

Education is being turned upside down and, in spite of that, we have been able to turn this into a positive. By embracing technology and adapting to the new learning environment, our students continue to benefit from these employees’ expertise and professional insight.

MHS Spanish teacher

MHS Houseparents

Exceptional Times, Exceptional People


"It is because of the exceptional people in our MHS community that our students are able to thrive, even during uncertain times."

PETER G. GURT ’85 MHS President

Photo of MHS Students Walking

Mr. Hershey once said, “Cooperation is the only true solution of many of our problems.” The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic showcased how vitally important cooperation is to our MHS community and the well-being of our students.

While these have been extraordinary times, we are extraordinary people. MHS students, alumni, staff, and parents/sponsors embraced the school year’s “Be Golden” theme to channel their inner strength, create positivity, and forge ahead in the face of hardship—often helping others along the way.

Quote Outline Milton S. Hershey Portrait

When you go home and you know you actually saved someone's life, you can't get any better than that.

On the Frontline MHS alumna Dr. Aisha Stroop ’94 is an emergency medicine physician in Greenwich, Connecticut, where she shared the ER went from zero COVID cases to 90 percent capacity. She and her fellow health care workers have had a tremendous impact.

MHS Students in front of Letters

Words of Encouragement

Student home Rosario made it their mission to reach out to MHS alumni during COVID-19. They handwrote more than 350 letters of encouragement to recent graduates.

Masked Up

A lot of what made our school’s efforts so successful during the pandemic was our staff’s ability and willingness to be flexible. One example was our Clothing Center staff who quickly transitioned from fittings to making reusable cloth masks.

MHS Student Making Cloth Masks
MHS Student Reading

Physically Distanced, Socially Connected

Teachers went above and beyond to make students feel socially connected, despite the physical distance. Like all MHS teachers, third-grade teacher Chris Swartz stayed connected to his students through technology, making sure he was there for them even just to read a story.

Spreading Hope

Seniors and their Transitional Living staff used their creativity to give the community a burst of inspiration. They positioned signs along Route 322 on campus to remind passersby that hope can still be found even during tough times.

Hope is Not Canceled Sign in Yard

Staff Members

265 mentored 415 high school students
79 volunteered with the Co-Pilot program – helping new elementary students adjust to MHS
122 groups of employees from MHS and other Hershey entities participated in Project Fellowship, where they spent quality time with student homes
MHS Students with Police Officer on Playground MHS Runner Holding Sign

Behind the Mission

MHS employees are passionate about our mission and focused on making a difference in the lives of the students they serve. Staff go above and beyond to be mentors, build positive relationships with parents/sponsors, and continuously enhance their areas of expertise to benefit students.

MHS Nurse

The COVID-19 pandemic has added a layer to our day-to-day responsibilities, but our workforce is passionate about our mission and trained to be the best in their fields so we can deliver unmatched care, resources, education, and support to all our students—the way the Hersheys intended.

"Our students originally felt uneasy about COVID-19 and what’s happening in the world. But we have the power to help them see the good and be the good."


MHS Graduate

Class of 2020 Class of 2020

Quote Outline Milton S. Hershey Portrait

Without the support of the staff at MHS, I never would have learned the depth of perseverance and the intensity of personal strength that I needed to put my future in line and stay the course.


MHS Student at Virtual Commencement Ceremony

MHS Family Holding Signs at Virtual Commencement Ceremony

The 212 members of the Class of 2020 could not have predicted the turn their senior year would take in the spring. As President Gurt reminded them during the first-ever virtual Commencement Ceremony, potential is almost always discovered and built during our toughest times.

These seniors chose to focus and persevere. In doing so, they joined the ranks of the school’s nearly 11,000 alumni. Their time as students at MHS ended in celebration with a one-of-a-kind car processional on campus aligned with state health guidelines.

MHS Student Standing with Diploma
Postsecondary Choices Of the 212 graduates in the Class of 2020, 78% plan to pursue a form of postsecondary education in the fall.
55% 55% Four-Year College
22% 22% Two-Year College and Technical School Two–Year Associate’s and Technical Degrees
12% 12% Workforce
9% 9% Gap Year
1% 1% Diploma and Certificate Progam Includes apprenticeships
1% 1% Military
MHS Student inside a car for the 2020 Car processional

137 of MHS graduates attended a postsecondary institution over the past 10 years Compared to the national average of 66-70%

MHS Student inside holding his Diploma

63 seniors earned 780 college credits before graduating

Class Snapshot

53 completed Advanced Placement courses
15 completed the Temple Program
74 completed an internship, co-op, or diversified occupations experience
47 enrolled during elementary school
$16.2M in Continuing Education Scholarships
MHS Student Posing for Photograph MHS Student and Faculty Working Together MHS Student and Faculty Taking a Photograph Together

Life After MHS

Milton Hershey School has a deep commitment to helping students transition successfully to life after graduation. Students start preparing for the future the day they arrive at MHS, and our Graduate Programs for Success (GPS) Division is the driving force. Every student’s path to success is different. GPS offers soon-to-be graduates and alumni one-on-one support whether they enter college or technical school, the workforce, or the military.

90% of MHS alumni are working or working and going to school.

During the 2019-20 school year, the GPS Division marked its fifth year providing individualized support to graduates. With a continued focus on strengthening graduates’ postsecondary experiences, the GPS team expanded its number of partnerships with postsecondary institutions to 24 with the addition of Bloomsburg University, Manor College, Moravian College, and Temple University. Through these partnerships, low-income, first-generation college students receive individual academic counseling, mentoring, retention support, employment assistance, and more to help them overcome the barriers to reaching graduation day.

With a strong foundation built while attending MHS, our alumni go on to make a difference for themselves, their families and communities, and the world. This year, alumni were recognized for being business leaders, mentors, catalysts for positive change, and leading the charge against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Christine Fisher

As the vice president of emergency services for Mount Sinai Health System, alumnus Robin Ferrer ’00 and his team are on the frontline of the COVID-19 outbreak in New York City. In his role, he helps plan hospital strategy, patient care, and crisis responses. He credits MHS with developing him as a leader.

As a leader at my hospital, it’s my responsibility to take care of others and invest in others so they can be successful. I got to where I am today because people cared about me and helped me—and that all started at Milton Hershey School.


Christine Fisher

In early 2020, Forbes featured alumna Alexandra Cristin ’07 for the success of her business Glam Seamless, a natural hair extensions company she founded at the age of 23 and grew to a $20 million-a-year business. Since then, she started the non-profit Glam Girls, Inc. to help girls in poverty build self-esteem and achieve success.

I am so grateful for life and Milton Hershey School. If it weren’t for Milton Hershey School, I know for a fact, I wouldn’t be who I am.


MHS Culinary Services Team

Vision and Focus

MHS Instructor With Student MHS Students at Home MHS Family

The end of the 2019-20 school year marked the conclusion of our 2020 Vision strategic plan. During the last five years, MHS has become a stronger community in a variety of ways—from the education and care we deliver to a growing number of students to the additional supports we offer our alumni. Our 2020 Vision achievements now put us in place to transition to our next strategic plan, the MILT Plan: Our Future in Focus, so we can build on our success.

MHS Student at Grocery Store MHS Students using their Mobile Devices Together MHS Student on the Job
2020 Vision Logo


Cultivate Strength of Character and Deliver a Top-Notch Education

  • Developed and integrated The Compass Project
  • Exceeded statewide averages on the PSSA and Keystone exams annually
  • Launched the CTE program’s 12th career pathway—Education and Human Services
  • Infused STEAM curriculum and Agricultural & Environmental Education program into student-run Project Market
  • Developed a 1:1 technology learning environment
  • Launched the Multicultural and Global Education program and domestic service learning experiences
  • Created living learning communities for seniors
  • Implemented three state-registered pre-apprenticeship programs
  • Grew the Spartan Internship program to include the largest number of participants to date
  • Awarded the Excellence in Action Award from Advance CTE for the Law, Public Safety, and Security CTE pathway
  • Strengthened authentic learning opportunities for students with Hershey entity partners
MHS Students Sitting Together in a Classroom MHS School Grounds

By successfully addressing our priorities through the

2020 Vision

we made our school better and better served our students. The last five years’ achievements focused on the strategic plan’s three major goals.

2020 Vision Logo


Expand Our Mission

  • Reached highest enrollment in school history with 2,189 students in 2019-20
  • Attained the highest retention rate in 50 years at 93.3 percent in 2018-19
  • Reached the largest number of students in each division to ever attend MHS
  • Completed the construction of 32 new Middle Division student homes
  • Expanded postsecondary partnerships to 24 colleges and universities to strengthen graduates’ postsecondary experiences
  • Developed the senior year capstone course
  • Launched the Graduate Programs for Success (GPS) Division to support our youngest graduates
  • Advanced alumni technology platforms to improve reach, engagement, and program outcomes
  • Created Spartan Academy to help students successfully transition to MHS
  • Introduced Spartan Sponsor Academy
  • Strengthened relationships with parents/sponsors through Family Weekends
  • Implemented livestream capabilities for parents/sponsors to watch student events no matter their location
MHS Students Posing Together at a Table MHS Students High-fiving Instructors MHS Security Officer Posing for Photograph at Playground
2020 Vision Logo


Ignite Staff Engagement and Exceptional Performance

  • Increased employee participation in mentoring programs
  • Launched the Co-Pilot Mentoring Program to support first-year elementary students with staff mentoring
  • Received continued accreditation status and exceptional feedback from the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools (PAIS)
  • Became first and only school in the United States to earn dual accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA)
  • Launched annual MHS Leadership Academy, advancing the skills of promising leaders across campus
  • Launched a new employee orientation program
  • Created and implemented a schoolwide employee reboarding program
  • Underwent extensive professional development and annual mandatory training to enhance expertise for the benefit of students
  • Named Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania for four consecutive years
MHS Student Working With Machinery MHS Students in Classroom MHS Students Walking on Path

Our Next Focus: The MILT Plan

Building on the successes of the 2020 Vision, we look forward to reaching even greater heights from 2020 through 2025 with our new strategic plan, the MILT Plan, and its focus on four key areas. Learn more about our achievements and goals for the future.


Modeling Character and Well-Being


Innovating Career-Focused Education


Leveraging Impact


Teamwork to Strengthen Community Alignment and Engagement