PennLive Highlights Milton Hershey School Students as Social Justice Leaders
MHS students in the Law, Public Safety, and Security (LPSS) pathway aren’t just learning about the field they’re studying, they’re already making a major contribution to it as social justice leaders. Aiming to break down cultural barriers between police and minority communities, MHS students joined with the 159th Pennsylvania State Police cadet class at a Minority Youth Forum. The event, held in-person in January of 2020, was focused on having meaningful conversations about race, equality, and social justice. PennLive’s recent reporting spotlighted MHS students in a special feature.
“They get to see through the other’s lens and, wow, it’s eye-opening,” said Paul Gaspich, LPSS teacher at MHS and organizer of the annual forum. “We start passing the mic around, and people start giving their opinions. It really is a great dialogue.”
MHS students Cheyenne Rodgers ʼ21, Victoria Ortiz Guerrero ʼ22, and Symyra Byrd ʼ22, were interviewed by PennLive and shared their interactions with police growing up—some very difficult and emotional.
“I watched my mother being dragged away,” Symyra said during a Zoom interview. “My family has had a lot of negative experiences with law enforcement. It wasn’t like the police came in and started a problem. It was things within my family. It was their decisions that led up to it, and the police weren’t trying to hurt anybody. But when you’re young, it’s very hard to see someone that you love taken out of your life like that. That made me not trust police.”
Years later, Symyra wants to help ease that pain for others and is considering a career in law enforcement. She remains pen pals with one of the female cadets she met at the event. “After being a part of the forum, my entire perspective began to change,” Symyra said. “I met all these amazing people.”