Hanna Royer ’14
Milton Hershey School graduate, Hanna Royer ’14 remembers the kitchen being a very core place in her childhood memories. Whether it was with her mom at home, in her student home with her houseparents, or in school during her culinary arts classes.
“When I was growing up, I remember [my mom] picking me up onto the counter and sitting me there, and I’d watch her,” she said. “I’d watch her make spaghetti or breakfast in the morning. Then in middle school, I remember always getting excited to go help Mr. Augustine, my housefather, make breakfast on the weekends.”
Hanna enrolled at MHS in fifth grade and moved into a student home where she continued to pour into her passion of cooking. At the time of her enrollment, her mom was raising two daughters by herself and living off a bus driver’s salary. The family learned about MHS through a big sister at Big Brothers, Big Sisters.
“I was inseparable from my mom growing up,” said Hanna. “Coming to MHS was initially really hard because it was the first time I was away from my mom for a long period of time.”
Hanna said visits with her mom, and the fact that her mom built a close bond with her houseparents, helped with her transition. When she got to high school, supportive staff and faculty helped her navigate tough transitions.
“I remember one time I couldn’t go home for the holidays, and we went to the Supply Center [on campus] and hung out with the cooks. We had so much fun. They made my holiday a whole lot better.”
The decision to follow a culinary path at MHS was an easy decision for Hanna. Between the culinary arts teachers and the staff at the Supply Center, Hanna knew this was her future.
“Chef Jennings made cooking fun and Chef Katzman’s class helped us really learn the details of cooking,” said Hanna. “I decided to pursue culinary arts because in my mind, cooking and being a chef is a job that will never go away. Everyone always needs to eat!”
By the time Hanna graduated from MHS, she had already advanced far beyond many of her classmates at Indiana University of Pennsylvania because of the opportunities MHS provided. At MHS, students in the Culinary Arts/Restaurant Management Services pathway develop the fundamental skills needed to become culinary professionals. The curriculum focuses on real-life applications of cooking, baking, and pastry methods as well as techniques, nutrition, safety and sanitation principles, and food and kitchen cost controls.
“Many of the kids in college had never taken a culinary class before, they weren’t coming from a technical school, they just knew they liked to cook. I was walking in already with an understanding of sauces, the basics of math, and simple terminology. MHS gave me a huge advantage my first year of college. It led me to become a tutor to others—which allowed me to grow in other ways!”
Hanna’s MHS connection also allowed her the opportunity to do an externship with The Hotel Hershey, a top-rated award-winning hotel with six restaurants and banquet facilities.
“MHS gave me so many opportunities,” she said. “And now I get to come back, work here, and still interact with the students. It makes me feel at home when I’m on campus and I don’t really feel like I’m working. Most days I am just enjoying life here.”
More than five years ago, Hanna came back to work at MHS as a cook at the Supply Center and at Founders Hall. She eventually moved up to team lead. One area she is particularly proud of is the school’s expansion in offering more gluten free options. The move is a personal one that opens the food landscape for those who are allergic or have gluten intolerance.
“It’s nice to be able to teach the students about different food allergies,” she said. “A few students in my old student home had Celiac or a gluten intolerance and they didn’t get to enjoy everything that everybody else gets to enjoy. It’s a good lesson for the students in the future, when they have people over to their house, they’ll be more considerate that not everyone can eat everything you can eat.”
As for why she came back to MHS to fulfill her career.
“I fell in love with Milton Hershey School,” said Hanna. “Learning how to cook is a big part of everyone’s world. Some find it fun to cook. Others find it to be a chore. I like going into student homes or sharing at Girls Grace that cooking can be fun, and you don’t have to make the same things all the time.”
That is the goal at Milton Hershey School—to help students become the best version of themselves and reach their full potential. The path for each student is different, but they each receive the same level of personalized support regardless of the path they choose.