Leila Asemani ’16
Leila Asemani ’16 enrolled at Milton Hershey School in 2006 after a domestic violence tragedy in her family. A third-grader at the time, Leila and her two older brothers came to MHS excited for a new beginning and a place to grow, learn, and play.
While at MHS, Leila participated in a number of activities, including becoming a member of the Student Government Association and the girls’ volleyball team. She also took on a leadership role with the mock trial team, helping to lead the team to place fifth in the state of Pennsylvania during her senior year. Also during her senior year, she took first place in the Rotary Speech Competition, where she found a love for public speaking.
Upon her graduation from MHS in 2016, Leila started her next chapter at Loyola University in Maryland majoring in communications and minoring in marketing. As she prepares to graduate in May 2020, she reflects on her time in college and the role that her MHS family has played in her success so far.
Leila credits MHS with giving her the foundation to succeed and be the person she has always wanted to be. The lessons she learned at MHS gave her a leg up once she got to college. “I would say I was probably the most prepared for college of all the people I met at Loyola,” she shared. “A lot of things you do in college came very naturally to me, like interacting with roommates and people from different backgrounds, doing laundry, and being respectful to everyone, no matter what.”
While she is appreciative of the financial support she receives from her Continuing Education Scholarship she earned during her years at MHS, Leila recognizes that the support from MHS goes far beyond that. “The people at MHS are my biggest support system in college and I’m sure for the rest of my life,” she shared. “Whether it’s my friends, old teachers, or houseparents, I can always go to those people for support, love, and care. I especially give credit to the MHS Career and Technical Education Director, Dave Curry, with helping me every step of the way through high school and beyond. He was my Law, Public Safety, and Security teacher, mock trial coach, mentor, father figure, role model, and so much more.”
Through her time in college, the Graduate Programs for Success (GPS) Division at MHS has been a helpful resource for Leila. She often reaches out to GPS when she has questions, realizing that the staff in that division are there to aid and assist her in any way she needs.
Leila struggled during her first year of college with her academics, but in the second year, she came back with a fresh mindset, ready to be the student she knew she was capable of being. “I also had a hard time connecting with people in the same way I did at MHS. Everyone at MHS had come from very similar backgrounds, we all had a story and something in common,” she said. “But, in college, other students may be more privileged and that doesn’t make them any less authentic or not good people, but the connection is sometimes lost with those people versus someone with a similar background.”
While in college, Leila realized how special a Milt bond is. She carried many of the friendships that she gained at MHS to college with her, making time to visit them in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., or wherever they may be. It is these friendships that she believes have helped her succeed through the challenges she has faced.
After her first year, Leila began to excel academically and personally, even earning a 4.0 during several semesters. Following on the path that MHS helped propel her towards, she got involved on campus and held internships that have given her experience she can soon use as she starts her career. “From my college experience, I would say I’ve gained a real-world experience being independent and trying to really navigate who I am and what my goals are in life,” said Leila. “I’ve grown up and I’m learning how to be the best person I can be.”
Leila encourages all MHS students who are starting their first year of college to stay true to who they are. “Don’t let the pressures of college and the new environment make you change what you know is best for you socially, physically, or mentally in any way,” she shared.
Now in her fourth year of college, Leila understands that college is not like MHS and hopes that more MHS students can grasp that before graduation. However, she hopes that they will understand that they have the skills and mindset to succeed regardless of the obstacles they face.
“In college, planning is key, so write things down and stay motivated,” she shared. “Keep your eye on the prize, you’ve made it this far, so don’t stop now.”
Soon, Leila will graduate and hopes to use the skills she has learned within the field of communications to bring people together and to solve issues and problems for people, and to simply have a positive impact on the world, just like MHS had on her.