Milton Hershey School Honors the Life and Legacy of Philanthropist Catherine Hershey by Naming New Cost-Free Early Childhood Resource Centers for Her
Milton Hershey School (MHS) announced Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning (CHS) today, to honor the life and legacy of Catherine “Kitty” Hershey. The new cost-free Early Childhood Education Initiative will bear the name of this visionary educational philanthropist and co-founder of MHS.
Since its founding in 1909 by chocolate pioneer Milton S. Hershey and his wife Catherine, MHS has helped young people break the cycle of poverty by providing a holistic and cost-free pre-K through 12th-grade education and home to students facing extreme economic hardship. Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning will allow MHS to expand the impact of Milton and Catherine Hershey’s vision to serve more children from economically disadvantaged and at-risk backgrounds through education.
“Catherine was a trailblazer. At a time when women had little involvement in business and legal affairs, Catherine was an equal partner to her husband in founding and growing MHS,” said Pete G. Gurt ’85, Milton Hershey School President and himself an alumnus. “When asked years later why he founded MHS, Milton Hershey answered, ‘It was Kitty’s idea.’ As we embark on this exciting and unprecedented expansion of our mission to help children from poverty reach their full potential, it was an easy decision to name this initiative in Catherine’s honor. Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning is her legacy.”
MHS began as a dream and vision shared by the Hersheys. Disappointed that they could not have children of their own, the Hersheys decided to use their wealth to support children who needed help the most. On November 19, 1909, Milton and Catherine Hershey signed the Deed of Trust establishing the Hershey Industrial School (now Milton Hershey School)—a home and school for orphaned children. With a philosophy ahead of its time, the school educated the whole child, providing a stable home life, rigorous academic learning, and agricultural and vocational training.
Milton Hershey School is investing $350 million to fund the development of up to six cost-free Early Childhood Resource Centers (ECRCs) in Pennsylvania for children from birth to age 5 from economically disadvantaged and at-risk backgrounds. While maintaining his leadership role at MHS, Gurt will also serve as president of CHS. The Centers will operate through subsidiaries of Milton Hershey School, independent of the MHS core model.
Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning will provide a core early learning program with a curriculum designed to enhance students’ educational, social, emotional and cognitive development. The school will also provide students with nutritious meals, transportation, and other needed supplies, and they will offer integrated support services to families of enrolled children.
There is a critical and growing need for early childhood education in Pennsylvania. Studies have shown that quality early childhood education can enhance a child’s educational, cognitive, social and emotional development, and physical well-being with positive, lasting impacts. Additionally, research has found that quality early childhood education can narrow the kindergarten-readiness gap between low-income and higher-income students.
The first ECRC, which will be located on the MHS campus in Hershey, Pennsylvania, on the southwest corner of Governor Road and Homestead Road, is scheduled to be completed in 2023. The second ECRC is scheduled to open in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 2024. The locations of other ECRCs will be determined by the School’s Board of Managers based on further research and community input.