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Milton Hershey School Lifer Shares the Meaning of Being a Graduate

By Kyle Russell, MHS Senior, Class of 2022

As a “lifer,” I believe that being a graduate from Milton Hershey School means so much more than just earning a diploma or walking across the stage at Giant Center. At MHS, there are an abundance of houseparents, teachers, and staff who care tremendously about the community and are willing to share their knowledge and insight.

I have been fortunate enough to create relationships with students and adults from various walks of life who have given me support and encouragement on this journey. Their impact on my life has been much greater than I could have ever imagined, and I use them as examples to become the person I know I can be as a graduate.

In fourth grade, I met my teacher, Mr. Hartman, who I built a strong relationship with. His patience and kindness in the classroom were absolute, yet, he exhibited care for students—like me—outside of the classroom as well. From baseball to personal matters, Mr. Hartman was a reliable mentor when I needed to discuss something. Although time has passed, his impact on me was significant and for the first time, allowed me to foster a relationship with a teacher. He is just one of the numerous examples of people in this community who allowed me to become the person I am today.

Milton Hershey School lifer, Kyle Russell, celebrates Commencement

In seventh grade, my flex houseparents at student home Gold Coast left a deep imprint on my time at MHS. They empathized with students and the obstacles we faced, running the student home in a way that made every one of their students feel welcome and at home. Whether it was the insightful talks after chapel service, watching football, or having dinner with them, every moment felt genuine and enjoyable.

When I entered high school, I was an unmotivated student, who, despite having the potential to thrive academically, preferred not to apply myself. This characteristic fundamentally changed when I took Mr. Edris’s World Cultures class. Mr. Edris taught in a way that was incredibly captivating and reignited my interest in school and in particular social studies, even when students like myself were unengaged. I vividly remember Mr. Edris telling my career counselor that I needed to be in more advanced placement classes because of how well I did in his class. This gave me such motivation to focus on my academic success. Mr. Edris’s unparalleled passion for teaching allowed me to genuinely enjoy being in a classroom environment, which consequently made me focus in other areas of school, and substantially improved my grade point average in the years that followed.

I share these stories not to tell you about the people I’ve met, but to share the deep impact that MHS has had on my life. Ultimately, being a “Milt” or graduate of MHS means that I am a byproduct of an incredibly caring and supportive community. Now, I will be able to give support to others in my future, years beyond MHS.

Whether you’re in first or 11th grade—regardless if you’re a lifer or not—take the time to develop relationships because what makes MHS so special is not just the opportunities you receive, but the people you get to experience them with.

Learn More About the Significance of Lifers at MHS Read More About the Class of 2022

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.