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Milton Hershey School Board Selects Harrisburg Site for Early Learning Center for 150 Children

One hundred and twelve years after Milton S. Hershey opened his home school for orphaned boys, the Last Days Torchbearers for Hershey’s Vision of helping underprivileged children arrive in Harrisburg.

The board of trustees that governs the Milton Hershey School in Derry Township announced Thursday that it has moved to a site to build the second of what will eventually become six Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning, in Sixth and Muench streets in Harrisburg.

The centers are part of the Hershey Trust’s mandate to further use its nearly $ 14 billion assets – built on the basis of its controlling stake in Hershey Company – for charitable purposes. The first early childhood center is planned in the Township of Derry, on the original campus of Milton Hershey School.

The proposed Harrisburg center will be located on a set of unused lots on North Sixth and Muench streets. After its opening in 2024, it will offer free education and family support services to 150 students from birth to 5 years old, all from economically disadvantaged and at-risk backgrounds.

Senate Alexander, executive director of New Schools Catherine Hershey, said eligibility thresholds were still being worked out. But one metric that seems to be fairly well established at this point is an income eligibility cap of 200% of the federal poverty level. For a single parent with one child in Harrisburg, that would amount to about $ 34,000 in annual income.

Across Dauphin County, according to the Annie E. Casey Center’s Kids Count data center, there are more than 9,500 children aged 5 and under who fall under this cap; Harrisburg is said to have one of the highest concentrations of child poverty in the county.

“Just looking at the number of children, especially low-income children who need a quality preschool education in Harrisburg, was a determining factor” in choosing Harrisburg, Alexander said. This was associated with the proximity to the original campus and the feeling that residents here know the Hershey brand as more than just a candy bar.

“The main goal is to prepare children for lifelong success and then provide them with the foundation for lifelong success,” said Alexander.

“The idea is that by installing these children and giving them the basics, they will either go to public schools in the region and this will help increase the number of public schools; or, for some of them, they will come to Milton Hershey School and continue to receive this high quality education.

The Harrisburg site – on four acres on the 600 block of Muench Street which Alexander says currently covers two vacant lots and one empty residential property – is expected to have 80 staff and volunteers when it opens, offering services from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. h on weekdays.

“We look forward to partnering with the community of Harrisburg to address the critical and growing need for early childhood education in the area and to close the kindergarten readiness gap between low-income and low-income students. high, ”Alexander said.

Hershey’s board of directors announced plans in 2020 to develop up to six of the so-called early childhood resource centers across Pennsylvania, all operating as subsidiaries of the Milton Hershey School.

This plan won the necessary blessing from Dauphin County Judge John J. McNally last year, because the original trust deed issued by Milton and Catherine Hershey in 1909 limited the expenditure of trust income only to the existing private boarding school in Derry Township.

On McNally’s order, Hershey’s School agreed to direct 25% of its future endowment income to new Early Childhood Education Centers, the first major expansion of the Hershey’s original vision outside of Derry Township.

The board of directors said earlier this year that the new centers would be named after Catherine “Kitty” Hershey, wife of Milton Hershey and the person Milton Hershey credited with the birth of the couple’s vision of providing schooling for women. orphan children.

The first center, which will be located on the Milton Hershey School campus at the southwest corner of Governor and Homestead Roads in Hershey, is expected to be completed in 2023. The location of the remaining centers will be determined by the Council of administration based on research and community input.

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