Dr. Alex Redcay ’95
Dr. Alex Redcay ’95 is a book author and an assistant professor in the social work department at Millersville University. As a graduate of Milton Hershey School, Alex truly believes that it was the people that she met at MHS that changed the course of her life—because in her words, the teachers at MHS “inspired greatness” and saw a life for Alex that she could not see for herself—especially when it came to pursuing a college education.
“When I got to [MHS] everybody was asking me, ‘What college are you going to?’ It was never something I had thought about,” she said. “The people in my immediate family never went to college. They were hard-working blue-collar folks.”
Alex was raised by her grandparents on a farm in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. Her parents were divorced and her mom was unable to raise her.
She enrolled at MHS at the age of 15 after being introduced to the school through the mother of a friend. This woman worked at MHS and helped Alex, her grandfather and aunt navigate the enrollment process.
“I owe that woman so much,” she said. “By that time, my grandmother had passed and my grandfather was raising me. She really encouraged me to go [to MHS] because she knew it was a good school.”
Alex found a supportive community in Hershey, Pennsylvania—especially from her teachers.
“The teachers at MHS cared about their students. This was not just a job for them, they looked out for us, gave us advice, and encouraged us—especially with our future plans.”
When Alex initially went to college, she admits the school she chose to attend wasn’t the best choice for her. She enrolled at a private school in Missouri, where the students came from wealthy families.
“It was a complete culture shock,” she said. “This one guy had his own computer—which at that time was unheard of—he also was studying to get his pilot’s license, and he drove a Mercedes. It just wasn’t a good fit.”
Alex transferred to Truman State University in Missouri—a public university. Between the low tuition mixed with a challenging education, Alex said it was the perfect fit for her.
“It gave me a good education and it taught me about the importance of public education,” she said. “Something that has stuck with me ever since.”
After graduating from Truman State University with a psychology degree, she earned her master’s in social work (MSW) from Southern Connecticut State University and her PhD in social work from Rutgers University—both public schools.
“When I was completing the Ph.D., I knew I wanted to work at a public institution because of the values of public education—to make college affordable and accessible to everyone. That’s what led me to Millersville University. It’s a high-quality education where the mission is to educate people and raise them to greatness—and the teachers actually care about being good teachers. They care about you personally.”
It’s a similarity Alex saw in the teachers at MHS.
“When you ask me what inspired me to go to college initially, it was the teachers at Milton Hershey [School],” she said. “I can’t say enough about them. They were AMAZING. They were kind but also inspired greatness. This was not just a job for them, they came because of the mission of the school. They genuinely cared about the students so they became my extended family.”
In her most recent project, Alex worked with a colleague from Southern Connecticut State University to write a book about the importance of grief and loss. Her colleague, Elisabeth Counselman Carpenter was the lead author.
“As we reflect on what has happened in our country in the past year, and those who have gotten sick and died from COVID-19, we are all living in this constant state of grief—especially our health care workers who are watching patients die. They have no time to grieve properly. Grief is something that is important and needs to be addressed with proper attention.”
Alex said one of the most important parts of their book, “Working with Grief and Traumatic Loss,” is allowing professionals to tell their story of grief. She said therapists are supposed to be the experts in helping people overcome their issues and anxieties, but how do experts deal with grief and trauma?
“We wanted to know, ‘What’s their story? How do they deal?’ So, we gathered together dozens of professionals to tell their story of grief and their incredibly powerful stories.”
The book was written before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the first part covers a variety of situations, not just the typical grief that comes from the death of a partner or parent. It also covers addiction, natural disasters, pet loss, and a wide range of grief topics
The second part of the book covers diversity and how faith impacts grief and loss.
“In a world that’s increasing in diversity, we thought it was really important to tell stories about faith and how people understand grief, loss, and death from different standpoints. Often, grief and loss are seen through a white Christian perspective, but it’s important to understand how other religions and cultures process grief.”
Throughout her journey, Alex has learned a lot about herself and what it takes to be successful. She is grateful to Milton and Catherine Hershey for paving the road to her success.
“Coming from the background I did, I would not have completed a college degree if Milton Hershey [School] had not paid for my college tuition, I don’t think I would have gone to college and I would not be where I am today. The financial assistance that was provided got me through the tough times in college. I was not able to appreciate it at the time but I will be forever grateful. Milton Hershey School changed the direction of my life. It enabled me to be successful in a way that I wouldn’t have been without it. “