Milton Hershey School Lifer Makes Her Younger Self Proud
By Arlene Samayoa-Rodas, MHS Senior, Class of 2022
Spending more than 12 years at Milton Hershey School and earning the distinction of a “lifer” is such an honorable, rewarding title—but is also so much more than that. The title of being a “lifer” is embedded with sacrifice, hard work, resilience, and courage. Being a part of the Class of 2022 since kindergarten has been an unforgettable experience that has taught me so much about myself and the importance of embracing every aspect of my journey—including all the people I’ve met, every memory I’ve made, and every opportunity I’ve been offered.
Arriving at MHS at the age of five, I had no idea that MHS would help my mother raise me into the person I am today. Growing up in a household rooted in Guatemalan traditions and values, family and academics were emphasized as two of the most important areas of life. However, when I was sent to MHS at such an early age, I questioned how I would transition from being home where family came first to a place where I didn’t know anyone and where success may not be emphasized. Little did I know that MHS valued these two things—family and success—as much as my family and I did.
While a member of this beautiful and diverse community, I have had the opportunity to participate in student government, the Mentoring Our Leaders Development committee, National Honor Society, and so much more. These opportunities—and the people I met through them—have shaped me into the person I am today and have given me the skills I need to succeed in college and beyond.
Throughout the years, however, being involved in this community and building relationships with the people around me, I found that I was gaining a family in a place that I least expected to. If anything, MHS has taught me that blood is not always thicker than water—family is what you make it. They are the people who support you when you succeed and when you fail, who walk alongside you, and who give the confidence to accomplish any task.
In just three short months, I’ll embark on my next journey at the University of Pennsylvania—something that the five-year-old version of myself never imagined. That little girl never would have thought that upon my graduation, I would reflect on more than a decade of memories of growing up in the sweetest place on Earth. That little girl left her home and came to MHS with the value of family close to her heart and a vision for success. In less than a month, I will leave yet another home, with a deeper understanding of family and path to my own success. Today, I celebrate, with bittersweet emotions, the place where I was challenged, where I grew up, and where I have learned the value of cherishing every moment that life gives you—because one day, you’ll grow up, just like me.