Advocating for Diversity

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By Milton Hershey School

Milton Hershey School alumnae Mercedes Grubb ’09 and Julie Viera ’09 have thrived thanks to the supportive environment and top-notch education they received at the cost-free residential school. While both women blazed different trails following graduation, their shared passion for diversity and inclusion led them to reconnect in Philadelphia.

Julie began blogging about diversity in the hopes of inspiring change. As she wrote and published content, she began reconnecting with various MHS alumni—including Mercedes who also led her own blog and shared similar viewpoints.

As they promoted each other’s work, Julie and Mercedes began noticing positive growth. They soon joined forces to create Digital Diversity, a collaborative online movement that shares a universal message of absolute inclusivity through a YouTube channel, video blog, speaking events and networking meet-ups.

“In general, I’ve found that many people don’t want to come together because they don’t understand the impact of diversity,” Julie said. “[Mercedes and I] decided to teach others that collaborating is the most powerful thing you can do.”

Mercedes credits MHS for teaching her to take action toward solving social problems. “Milton Hershey didn’t just deal with symptoms of a problem— [he took action] and put us in the best position to succeed,” Mercedes said. “That gives me a lot of inspiration to follow his pathway. I want to get to the deeper meaning of the problem by giving minority groups education, resources, opportunities and a larger voice.”

Both are thankful for the overwhelming amount of support they have received from MHS graduates who live in Philadelphia and understand the power of diversity and collaboration.

“Everyone at MHS is different, and everyone has a story. We lived with people who didn’t necessarily represent what our communities at home looked like,” Julie explained. “For [MHS students], diversity and inclusivity were almost inherent. It was something we lived, and every day we learned about each other. It gave us the comfort to be able to create a discourse and appreciate diversity.”

Just like many MHS graduates, Mercedes and Julie are drawn to each other due to their shared values that were embedded in them at MHS.

“We’re family. We can really relate to each other because we understand each other’s values,” Julie said. “I know [Mercedes] has great character and I know what she’s like, and now we’re tackling the world.”

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