Rechanda Willis ’06
Rechanda Willis ’06 doesn’t know where she’d be today had it not been for Milton Hershey School. She enrolled at the age of 14 after moving to Virginia with her mother, brother, and sister following her parents’ separation.
“We were in a really rural area [of Virginia] and it was a really, really bad school district,” Rechanda said. “I was in eighth grade learning from books I studied when I was in elementary school. I started to fail and was really lucky to get out of there.”
Rechanda arrived at MHS as a shy teenager. She credits the structure and nurturing environment of the residential home life program with molding her into the person she is today and helping her gain confidence.
“I was excited [to enroll at MHS] because I thought I was going to be on my own and make my own decisions,” she said. “What I ended up learning was structure, how to be on a schedule, and be committed to something. It also gave me focus. Everyone you come in contact with at MHS is a mentor and wants to see you do better. That’s the best environment for anyone to thrive.”
Through mentors and teachers, extra-curricular activities like athletic training, and the Health Science Career Pathway, Rechanda gained an understanding of her future career, but struggled with the exact direction following graduation.
“Like a lot of people, I left MHS thinking I knew exactly what I wanted to do,” she said. “I flailed. I was in school for a long time. I changed my major. I changed my school. I kept thinking, ‘what I am going to do?’”
After switching schools, Rechanda decided to go to community college in Pittsburgh. She became an RN, took her boards, and currently works at an outpatient surgical center in the Philadelphia area.
“Everybody’s idea of success is different,” she said. “You have to decide what’s important to you. To some people, it’s their career. To others, it’s family. When you decide what’s important to you and you achieve that, that is success.”