Milton Hershey School Class Reflections: The Gift I Needed
By Angel Perrett ’22, MHS Alumna
As a first-grader, coming to Milton Hershey School was all I ever thought about. Using my imagination, I wore down my brown Crayola crayons from hours of drawing pictures of that chocolate paradise. Deep down I knew that MHS would give me every gift my hometown could not.
I grew up in the projects in North Philadelphia. Some children heard the melody of their mother’s angelic voice to guide them to sleep, unfortunately, I was not one of those children. Instead, I had to make melodies out of gunshots and sirens, watching my classmates walk home from school with their mothers. All I had was the greetings and farewells from the crossing guard to take me home.
The transition from the warm autumn breezes to the bitter winter winds were always unbearable for me. I would find myself layering my socks and shirts as a sanctuary from frostbite. I constantly questioned when this cycle of constant hunger, fear, and poverty would end. Praying and pleading with God, asking him to relieve me of the experience that I thought would be my life forever. I was surviving, not living.
July 31, 2016, is one of the most memorable days of my life. It is the day I was welcomed into the MHS family by Mr. and Mrs. McKnight, my former houseparents. Walking through that front door, I was naïve because I did not know that this was only one of the many doors that the school would open for me. Two loving houseparents were bestowed upon me.
Asking Mrs. McKnight when or if Mr. McKnight was coming home was no longer my reality. They never left me in the middle of the night and loved me even when I misbehaved. I could go to sleep at night and not hear the echoes of screams bouncing off the houses throughout my neighborhood. Lying my head down on my pillow the night of my admission I felt a feeling I have not felt in years: safety. This was truly a gift.
My relationship with Mrs. McKnight was a large part of my journey at MHS. She showed me that I am capable of love regardless of the circumstances I was born into. She saw me for who I was and never hesitated to pick up my pieces and put me pack together. She loved me, and at that time, love was all I needed. This was truly a gift.
This journey was not always easy. There were moments that I wanted to give up not having the energy to fight back. But then, I remembered that little girl who dreamed of enrolling at MHS and taking every gift I was given to become the young woman I knew I could be. I had to remember that this was truly a gift.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of students fail to complete high school in the United States. I am more than happy to say that the MHS Class of 2022 is not included in that statistic. We have overcome, persevered, and followed through all the way to June 2022. My classmates and I came to MHS for different reasons; however, we all shared the same goal of wanting to make something of ourselves. My class is full of future doctors, nurses, leaders, musicians, and teachers. Society said that because of where we came from, we would be anything more than the statistics or even incarcerated. Society said that because of our skin color or because of our backgrounds, we would amount to little, that we would be nothing more than a burden to those around us.
With every college acceptance, every college course passed, and every passing grade, we as a class can humbly say that we never fulfilled any of the negative outcomes that we were prophesied for. We as a class proved that even when the world is turned against you, you are in control of what you want to be. We are truly the roses that grew from concrete simply because of the gifts we have been given.