In Conversation with Andrea Elliott and Trymaine Lee at Milton Hershey School
On Monday, Nov. 14, Milton Hershey School welcomed Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, Andrea Elliott, New York Times investigative reporter and best-selling author, and Trymaine Lee ’96, MSNBC correspondent and podcast host, to campus for an in-depth conversation on childhood poverty in America. The conversation focused on Elliott’s best-selling book, “Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival, and Hope in an American City,” which follows the life of former MHS student, Dasani Coates, and her family through the challenges of homelessness and poverty.
Elliott and Lee spent much of their discussion exploring the barriers that Dasani faced, her time at MHS, and the larger epidemic of childhood poverty.
This important community-wide discussion was held in the newly-renovated Founders Hall Auditorium and also included a reception and book signing experience for guests. To kick off the program, staff members who worked with and supported Dasani during the time at the school, including her houseparents, mentors, and coaches, read excerpts from the book to introduce Dasani’s story.
“This book is as long as a presidential biography and I believe that Dasani’s life is worth every bit as much,” Elliott said. “And it’s as important of a vehicle for understanding history and policy.”
As an MHS alumnus, Lee brought a unique perspective to the conversation, understanding the experience that MHS students face as they balance the expectations at MHS and those of their families. Originally from New Jersey, Lee spent many years at MHS before attending Camden Community College and Rowan University to earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
“MHS was a safe environment for me to blossom,” added Lee. “We arrive here with hurts and traumas, but ultimately MHS students have to see the possibility of wanting more. There is inevitably going to be challenges, but you must see this as a way to be a beacon for those who will come after you.”
To conclude the program, three MHS 12th grade students—who are reading “Invisible Child” in their English class—were invited to ask Elliott insightful questions.