A Mothers’ Sacrifice and Vision Resulted in Opportunity at Milton Hershey School
Not everyone’s journey to Milton Hershey School is the same. At the core of every journey, though, is the selflessness of a person who wanted the children in their care to have every opportunity possible.
When Tammie Barrada’s husband passed away unexpectedly, she wasn’t sure how she was going to offer her two children the opportunities they deserved or simply put food on the table. She was sure of one thing, though—she wasn’t going to let her family’s misfortune determine her children’s future.
Passionate about her children, Laila and Omar, getting the best education possible, Tammie ensured that they would receive an education through a Montessori school in their local community, just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While at an after-school event, she was speaking to another parent who shared about a school where opportunities are endless, and students are given the skills to succeed—MHS.
Tammie knew that she had to learn more about the school named after a chocolate maker. She set up a tour and knew immediately that this is where her family was meant to be. She waited several years before enrolling Laila and Omar at MHS knowing the transition wouldn’t be easy, but worth it.
Just like Milton S. Hershey’s mother, Fanny B. Hershey, Tammie wanted her children to have the ability to dream big and was willing to do her part to make sure that happened. When Mr. Hershey’s mother made sure that her son had the apprenticeship that fit his skills, she had no idea that he would build one of the largest and most well-known chocolate businesses in the world—but she didn’t need to, and Tammie didn’t either.
Tammie didn’t know what the outcome of this new adventure would be, but she knew it was worth a try.
“I would make the decision again to send Laila and Omar to MHS in a heartbeat,” she shared. “I can’t tell you how grateful I am for MHS—for Catherine Hershey and everything that she thought of—and for everything that they do for all the students.”
When Laila and Omar arrived at the school, they seized every opportunity in front of them. Omar joined the Boy Scouts, earning his Eagle Scout badge before graduation, participated in sports, was active in the health science career pathway as a part of the school’s Career and Technical Education program, and more. Laila grew a passion for Spanish language and culture—studying abroad for a year through the Hershey Rotary Student Exchange program. She also participated in sports, the Student Government Association, and more.
“I was still able to do life with my kids. I still shared in the good moments and the bad—because every moment wasn’t perfect,” she shared. “But we experienced those moments as a family, and we knew that no matter what, MHS was where we needed to be.”
Tammie was intentional about being a part of Laila and Omar’s journey at MHS. She could often be found in the stands at a sporting event cheering on the Spartans or engaging in activities sponsored by the MHS Family Relations department—an arm of the school that develops personal connections with the families of MHS students.
Her involvement across campus is the reason why the school now offers resources and tutorials to parents/sponsors on how to walk through the college application process with their child. Tammie didn’t just enroll her children at MHS, she made the school an extension of her family. Today, she credits the school with opening the door to success for Laila and Omar.
After graduating from MHS in 2016, Omar earned a bachelor’s degree in global management from the University of Pittsburgh and recently accepted a job with Amazon. Just one year later, Laila graduated, too, before enrolling at Penn State. Laila graduated in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in engineering.
Tammie now volunteers her time with the MHS Admissions department, sharing her story and helping other parents/sponsors make the brave decision to enroll their child at MHS.
“If you have a question, if you think MHS might be a good fit for you and your child or if you’re not sure, go find out. Take the time to go to a meeting, take the time to call me or another sponsor, take a school tour,” shared Tammie. “It doesn’t matter how you find yourself at MHS, what matters is that if you love your kids, love them enough to let them go.”