The Search for Talented Low-Income Students Who Qualify for Milton Hershey School

Image courtesy of MHS

I recently saw a post on LinkedIn with the above title by a colleague who recruits for the Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania, USA. He was attending a professional association conference at the time. For the uninitiated, this school was founded in 1909 by chocolate industrialist Milton Hershey and his wife, Catherine Hershey. The MH School currently has an endowment of about $16 billion USD making it the wealthiest private school in the US. (At the higher ed level Harvard takes the prize with a 2021 endowment of $52 billion USD.)

In a nutshell, this private boarding school is for high-achieving, low-income kids who attend free of charge. According to the school’s Wikipedia entry, it housed 2,020 students in the 2017–18 school year, of whom 44.5% were white, 33.8% black, 8.7% Hispanic, 1.0% Asian, and 11.0% identified with two or more races. About 10% had a deceased parent and nearly 90% are from single-parent homes, as of 2020, with an average annual income of $22,000 USD.

The MH School is doing great work and I wish there were more like it. Milton and Catherine were true visionaries and humanitarians. However, whenever I see a reference to “talented low-income students” I think of the millions of mediocre white people, males in particular, who can be “successful” simply because of the color of their skin and family history. Mine, which dates to 1610 and 1620 in what eventually became the US, has given me certain “hereditary” advantages of which I have been well aware since I was a young man.

Image courtesy of WUSA 9

Many doors have opened because of my race, gender, and social class. Hard work, yes, but so much of life is the luck of the draw, including where one lives and the kind of neighborhood school one attends. (I always attended public schools in “good neighborhoods”, meaning I received a quality education.) It’s a painful awareness. For example, I see this every time I return to the US by how I’m treated and how others are mistreated. 

I see the progress that’s been made in my lifetime but also the regression, most notably in recent years.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

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