Milton Hershey School Builds on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Framework in 2021-22
Featuring Fonati Abrokwa ’01, MHS Special Assistant to the President for Diversity and Inclusion
Last school year, aligned with our founders’ intent for inclusivity, Milton Hershey School (MHS) developed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Framework and announced the formation of a DEI-focused team. This collective group of employees work together to identify strengths, areas for growth, and opportunities to promote DEI within the workplace and student experience.
To kick off the school’s 2021-22 DEI plans, Fonati Abrokwa ‘01, MHS Special Assistant to the President for Diversity and Inclusion, organized a team of Cultural Ambassadors, who were specially selected to foster growth in the areas of DEI through ongoing professional development and dialogue throughout the community.
“We want to create safe spaces where all staff and students can have courageous, and sometimes challenging, conversations and be their authentic selves,” Abrokwa said.
Abrokwa and the Cultural Ambassadors have begun working with the MHS Training and Development team to integrate DEI principles and exercises into orientation for new employees and trainings for staff. This cross-department collaboration established common language and developed a DEI journey for Education and Student Life staff, creating customized “Learning Experiences.”
In August, MHS rolled out its DEI programming with two groups of employees—individuals who have access to our students the most—teachers and houseparents. The first learning experience was centered around self-reflection and provided resources for employees to continue their individual DEI journeys.
“Each learning experience begins with staff considering their lived experiences and identity,” said Andrew Miller, MHS Curriculum Supervisor and Cultural Ambassador. “It is from this personal and familiar space that we consider the next steps we can take to make the MHS community a more inclusive and welcoming space, regardless of race, class, gender, or religion.”
In addition to the new learning experiences, the DEI team finalized focus areas and formed subcommittees to begin working on the following areas: Student Haircare and Appearance, Curriculum and Programs Audit, Policies and Procedures Audit, and Student Voice.
Two members of the DEI team, Allison Carrier, MHS Clinical Psychologist, and Sharice Johnson, MHS Coordinator of Student Character and Leadership Development, are leading the student voice charge through The Compass Project Grow—an initiative designed to give students an opportunity for self-expression and collaboration with MHS staff members through student voice forums and workshops.
To merge the DEI team with MHS student leaders, Abrokwa will be working closely with the Student Government Association’s newly appointed Diversity and Inclusion Student Liaisons.
“Our DEI work and increased student engagement is aligned with the school’s strategic plan—The Milt Plan,” Abrokwa said. “The same focus areas of Modeling Character and Well-Being and Teamwork to Strengthen Community Alignment and Engagement apply to DEI and serve as the roadmap on our school’s journey of equity and inclusion.”