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A Strong Legacy of Women Leaders at Milton Hershey School

By Soleil Carrion Del Toro, MHS Vice President of Finance and Shared Services

Stories of women lifting one another up are often celebrated, but the greater influence we’ve had throughout history is not as well known or discussed. Without the inspiration of women in Milton S. Hershey’s life, he would not have been the generous man that supported and nurtured youth in need. For example, Milton’s mother taught him not to let his fortune spoil him and his wife Catherine encouraged him to be selfless and give back for all he had received. I am often reminded of how honored I am to work at Milton Hershey School. From the opportunities to grow as a professional to interacting with the students we serve; I am incredibly fortunate to call myself a Spartan. What makes my job even better is the strong history MHS has in valuing and elevating the voices of women leaders across our campus.

For more than 114 years, MHS has valued the impact that women have on the students we care for. In 1909, 11 years before women had the right to vote in the United States, Catherine Hershey, alongside her husband Milton Hershey, signed the Deed of Trust that created Hershey Industrial School. This act alone set the tone for what was to come.

According to the World Economic Forum, more than 10 percent of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are women. At MHS, women fulfill leadership positions in departments across our campus. Not to mention our houseparent roles, in which women are an integral part in developing students across our nearly 200 student homes and Transitional Living buildings.

The young women who currently attend MHS and those who have graduated all remind me of the importance of breaking glass ceilings. Women in leadership open doors in all industries so others can walk through them. What I am often surprised about, though, is how many ceilings our current students and female graduates are breaking every day through their determination, compassion, and grit.

When I reflect on my own life and career, I am so grateful to the men and women who supported, mentored, and cheered me on. Without them, I would not be who I am today.

Mentorship is an integral part of our curriculum at MHS. Whether formally, through the MHS Mentoring Our Leaders Development program, or informally, mentoring young people is incredibly rewarding. I learn just as much from them as they learn from me. Much like Catherine Hershey, I now have the honor to uplift and empower the next generation of young women to change the world.

We often speak of the fact that Milton and Catherine Hershey’s selfless actions will allow MHS to exist in perpetuity. Taking that one step further, thanks to their generosity, there will always be a place for women and girls to grow their potential beyond what they ever thought possible.

Thank you, Catherine Hershey, for paving the way for generations of women who have come after you. You are a true trailblazer.

Soleil was recently celebrated as a 2024 YWCA of Greater Harrisburg’s Tribute to Women of Excellence honoree.

Learn More about Character and Leadership at MHS

Milton Hershey School does not discriminate in admissions or other programs and services on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, sex, religious creed or disability. Read important MHS policies on equal opportunity and diversity, equal employment opportunity, and more.