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How Grief Helped Me Find True Strength

March 18th, 2018 is a blur to me now. The adrenaline rush to my head was overwhelming, anger and sadness filled up my heart. I could taste the salty tears coming down my face in my student home bedroom.

Me and the guys in my student home had just came back from our weekly venture to Chapel. My houseparents were extremely nice as always and said “hello,” offering me breakfast. I got dressed to go outside and play basketball with the guys, and we played our hearts out on the court. The warm, spring air in my lungs made me feel at ease. It was such a beautiful day.

When I went back inside, I had a strange text from an aunt I don’t really know. She texted me, “If you need anything, I’m here.”

I felt a rush of disbelief and guilt came over me. It had already been six months since my father went missing. I didn’t want to believe what my mind had been telling me. I called my mother who was already far along in her journey to Hershey to see me, her first born. When she answered and said, “Hey Shawn, how are you?” she was very clearly trying to hold back the inevitable tears that were about to come.

Shawn, an MHS junior

I asked her, “Is my father dead?” The soft gentle words she said weren’t an answer, but a fill-in for the truth. I can’t remember what she said but only my journey after that experience.

My battle is a constant one. The constant reminder of what I don’t have anymore and looking in the mirror and not seeing myself, but my father. I’ve learned it isn’t how hard we get hit—true strength comes from getting up and taking that pain to better ourselves.

No matter what struggles life throws our way, we must stay strong and embrace them with all we have inside. Being involved is the most important thing you can do during times of sorrow and grief not only for students at Milton Hershey School but for anyone. You have to pour in 100 percent of yourself each and every day. When you do that, you will not only change yourself but the entire culture around you.

The human mind is easily influenced, and we must be aware and try not to let the bad decisions of others dictate our actions. At MHS, I have impacted many others by sharing my story. They see how I’m able to take a bad situation and make it the motivation that drives me to excellence.


Shawn enrolled at Milton Hershey School in tenth grade from Mays Landing, New Jersey.

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