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Milton Hershey School Lifer Grateful for Education and Support

Jaiylah Gonzalez will graduate in June with the distinction of being a Milton Hershey School lifer. MHS has had more than 600 alumni enroll in pre-K, kindergarten, or first grade. At MHS, these students earn the distinction of being a lifer once they complete their 12 years of schooling and graduate.

As we prepare to celebrate them at the school’s 90th Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, June 9, we asked several of this year’s 18 lifers what their time at MHS has meant to them.

Jaiylah Gonzalez and Milton Hershey School teacher Jenny Slatt.

What inspired you or your family to choose MHS for your education?

My mom knew that the best way to break the cycle of poverty and give me and my siblings a better life was to enroll us in MHS. She knew that it would give us the best education, care, and support. It is a hard decision to send your kids to a school where you may not see them often, but she knew how much MHS offered and how it would all pay off in the long run.

How would you describe your journey from the moment you enrolled at MHS to your final year at MHS?

From the day I enrolled, I was excited and happy to be here. At the moment, I never thought about how much time I would be spending here and how much it would impact me. From the time I started all the way to now, I have seen an improvement in myself. Without MHS, and the support it has given me, I would never have been able to come this far. It has been a remarkable and long journey, and it has also been worth every single second.

What does the school theme “Breakthrough” mean to you? What are some of the Breakthrough moments you’ve had at MHS?

The theme Breakthrough challenges me to reflect on how different things are from when I enrolled and the many Breakthroughs I’ve had during my time at MHS. One of my biggest Breakthroughs is that I feel prepared to graduate and be successful in whatever happens next.

Who has made an impact on you during your time at MHS?

All my teachers and staff have influenced me positively and helped me throughout this journey. My coaches, Mrs. Shirk and Mrs. Jennifer Dreyer, have helped me grow as a person and teammate and taught me the importance of being a good person and working hard to accomplish things.

My houseparents Mr. and Mrs. Green have also helped me grow throughout all four years of high school and continue to support me. I really believe we have such great teachers here and it is one of the things I am most grateful for. Teachers like Mrs. Schreckengost, Mr. Karavage, Mr. Henson, Mrs. Slatt, Mrs. Grissinger have all been excellent teachers. They have all been wonderful mentors and helped me learn so much about myself and how I can be better. They have helped push me in the direction of reaching my full potential.

How has MHS prepared you for your future?

MHS has prepared me for my future because I can now see all the potential opportunities there are out in the world—opportunities I would not know about without being here. Being at MHS has taught me all that I can accomplish when I persevere. Life is never going to be easy, however, I don’t fear because I am confident in my ability to overcome any challenge and emerge even stronger than before.

What are some of the most memorable, fun memories that you’ve had during your time here? What are some of the clubs/activities you’ve been able to be part of?

 The entire time I’ve spent at MHS has been memorable because I’ve been able to grow up alongside many of my classmates. Just spending time with my friends and people at this school is a big part of what has made being here so enjoyable. I was a part of the volleyball program from seventh grade to senior year. I’m also in National Honor Society and National Technical Honor Society and I participate in the Milt to Milt program.

What advice would you share with a younger MHS student as they work hard and persevere toward their own Breakthrough moment?

I would say that it can sometimes be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but MHS has so much to offer. It will all be so worth it when you get the opportunity to walk across the stage. Enjoy your time at MHS because before you know it, you’ll be a senior like me almost ready to graduate. Continue to work hard and build strong relationships with students and staff because they will give you all the support you need. There is truly no place in the world like MHS!

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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.