Mikayla Poole ’16
Mikayla Poole ’16 enrolled at Milton Hershey School from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania following the death of her mother. As a fourth-grader, she soon came to realize that this new place was full of the hope and love she had always desired—a place she would one day call home.
During her time as an MHS student, Mikayla played on the girl’s field hockey, diving, and softball teams, developing a passion for staying active—even challenging herself by running the Hershey Half Marathon. Mikayla took her education seriously and developed relationships with teachers, houseparents, staff, and other students that she knew would push her to succeed long past graduation.
“I have learned the power of perseverance and grit through my time at MHS. The school gave me a second chance at life,” she shared. “It allowed me to develop life skills, make connections, and have faith in my future.”
Mikayla is now a rising senior at Lebanon Valley College where she is pursuing a dual bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and special education with the hope of becoming a teacher. During her time at LVC, she also continued her passion for athletics as a member of the woman’s field hockey team.
It wasn’t just her passion for staying active that Mikayla brought with her to college. Since graduating from MHS, Mikayla has continued her relationship with Laura Perales, associate director of the MHS Transitional Living program. Laura has been mentoring Mikayla since she enrolled as a 9-year-old, always ensuring that Mikayla felt loved and prepared to face challenges.
“Laura still serves as a mother figure in my life and continues to teach me the value of family, working hard, and new experiences,” said Mikayla. “Laura has gone beyond her job description to make me a part of her family and ensure that I will always have a place to call home and someone to lean on when life gets heavy.”
Mikayla has lived with Laura, her husband, and three sons since her graduation from MHS in June 2016, showing her the true meaning of family.
It was not just Laura that left an imprint on Mikayla’s life, though. Her MHS teachers and other staff played a large part in Mikayla finding her passion for education and her aspiration to be a teacher. “I have had educators and coaches significantly impact my life and my ability to succeed throughout my time in grade school and college,” she said. “As a senior at MHS, reflecting on what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, it was pretty clear to me that I wanted to educate, love, and mentor students in order to allow their dreams to become a reality.”
Mikayla credits MHS with teaching her skills like timeliness, communication, work ethic, and integrity. MHS instilled in her the value of taking chances in life and never giving up.
Mikayla gives back to current MHS students as a Year-Round Experiences camp counselor and a Middle Division event worker. To all MHS students, Mikayla says: “Take the chance on having meaningful relationships, take the chance on allowing yourself to grow, and take the chance on the world again,” she shared. “Run towards every opportunity and allow yourself the freedom to fail.”
Mikayla is grateful for all that MHS has given her and all that it continues to do for her as a graduate. She hopes to one day shape the lives of the next generation of students, just as her life was shaped by one man and woman with a chocolate recipe.
“To Milton and Catherine Hershey, I thank you for taking the chance on your dream and developing a school that has touched thousands of lives including mine,” said Mikayla.