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Milton Hershey School Senior Learns to Use Her Voice

By Jaelyn Lewis, MHS Senior

Too often, people my age don’t realize the power of their own voice. On Jan. 16, 2023—Martin Luther King Jr. Day—I had the opportunity to speak on a panel about the short film “RACE to be Human.” Thanks to Milton Hershey School, this opportunity afforded me the ability to not only speak but listen, too.

I sat alongside distinguished members of my community and conversed with them and the audience on subjects many tend to avoid. We shared hardships and different points of view to broaden our horizons and learn from one another. As a leader, your job is to teach as much as it is to learn and to speak as much as it is to listen. I got to sit back and watch other leaders interact with me and my peers, making us feel both comfortable and empowered.

I learned that as a young woman still in high school my opinions are just as valuable, and my voice is just as valid, as those with bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees. The entire experience was an opportunity to stretch my leadership abilities since my voice on that panel represented young people everywhere. The entire event, I was looking out on adults and children alike as they listened to every word I had to say. As a young leader, I learned the importance of stepping up and stepping back—all in the same day.

Milton Hershey School students participated in a screening of "Race to be Human," followed by a panel discussion.

When I first heard of the film, “RACE to be Human”—which focuses on apprehension and misunderstandings around difficult topics in our country—I was intrigued because of my involvement in the MHS Cultural Diversity Club. Within this small school organization, I am a leader, raising my hand and speaking up for myself and my classmates, planning events, and ensuring that we have hard and important conversations. I love to share my passion with my peers in this way and show them that if I can do it, so can they.

Jaelyn Lewis, Milton Hershey School Senior, sits on a panel discussion with community leaders.

When I enrolled at Milton Hershey School in middle school, I lacked the confidence in myself to speak up and use my voice to create change and spread joy. Today, as I prepare to graduate from MHS in a few short months, I am excited for all that I’ve learned and how I will be able to apply it in the future.

During the RACE to be Human panel discussions, I grew. I was able to reach past the MHS community, speak to a larger audience, and make a bigger impact. I was able to show my peers that even though I was nervous, the questions were complex, and I had every reason to want to back out; I committed, and I was able to persevere and, ultimately, be successful. Following the MHS Sacred Values of commitment to mission, positive spirit, mutual respect, and integrity, I shared and owned my expertise and was so grateful for the experience to do so.

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