My Milton Hershey School Family
By Arlene Samayoa-Rodas ’22
As I traveled the long car ride to an unknown place, little did I know I was traveling to a place that would become another home. I did not think that I would make everlasting connections that are still present 11 years later. Never did I expect to inherit another entire family.
When I think of the word family, I don’t necessarily think of blood relationships anymore. Milton Hershey School helped me realize that family consists of commitment and love. Over the years, I became extremely close with several adults, teachers, and students.
When I arrived at student home Kennedy in 2009, the girls welcomed me, the new kindergartener, and we truly created a sisterhood. That is when I first began to extend my family. The Moores were my first houseparents, and I still see them as mother and father figures. Coming at such a young age, I really needed support, guidance, and nurturing. I was extremely homesick at the time, and many times I felt like leaving. The Moores helped me adjust and consistently reminded me that I was going to be okay.
Because I was raised in such a family-orientated environment, I didn’t know if it could feel the same being away from my biological home. However, the Moores did make me feel at home. The way they interacted with the other girls and me made me feel like I was a part of another family. Their characteristics resemble my mother: patient, loving, and kind.
My transition to middle school was definitely tough, since I was leaving the Moores, the people who helped my mother raise me. Little did I know, I was transitioning to yet another family. I also was fortunate and blessed to be welcomed into another group of amazing girls with loving houseparents, the Kieffers.
The Kieffers always treated us as their own kids. I’ve always been involved in sports, and Mr. Kieffer went out of his way to make it to my games, even when they were not working. I didn’t even have to look on the sideline, I knew Mr. Kieffer was there by the way he cheered for me. Field hockey, basketball, and soccer—no matter the sport—Mr. Kieffer made his way outside to help me practice, give me guidance, and set up drills. I never questioned the Kieffers’ love or commitment.
The Moores and the Kieffers are still involved in my life. We communicate and keep in touch. The Kieffers invite me to their student home, and I often see them at MHS gatherings. The Kieffers and the Moores attended my quinceañera, a celebration of my youth—to which they both contributed. To this day, I still seek them for guidance.
The overwhelming amount of love and commitment at MHS goes to show how much of a family feel there truly is. And, as with true family, I see them in my life for the duration.
Family: That is the one word that drove Milton Hershey and his mission to create an extension to his family. One hundred years later, I was able to do the same.