Igniting A Spark By Milton Hershey School

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Igniting A Spark

By Milton Hershey School


The first day of school at Milton Hershey School, a cost-free residential school for more than 2,000 students from lower-income families, is unlike any other.

First-day photo traditions are alive and well, but it’s the Opening of School Assembly at MHS that creates a level of excitement and energy rarely seen elsewhere when students head back to class. Students, staff, and alumni of all ages come together to celebrate and share inspiration through powerful videos, musical performances, and live speeches. This year’s assembly highlighted spark moments – times that inspired a positive change in a person’s life.

For MHS alumnus Aaron Nowlin ’12, a recent graduate of the United States Naval Academy, this year’s assembly was his opportunity to take the stage and describe the moment that changed his life forever.

Aaron admits that when he enrolled at MHS his freshman year, he missed his home in Philadelphia and didn’t know where he saw his future. While at home during Christmas break his sophomore year, one of his best friends was shot and killed in his neighborhood.

“When this happened, it made me realize that although I loved being in Philadelphia, the violence and all the drama didn’t make it the best place for me,” Aaron explained.

With a new mindset, Aaron returned to MHS and began to take advantage of all the resources, opportunities, and people who were there to help and guide him. One of those people was MHS counselor and coach Mark Zerbe, with whom Aaron discussed postgraduate plans, including attending college or joining the naval reserves.

“I remember at lunch one day, Coach Zerbe asked me if I had ever heard of the Naval Academy. I hadn’t,” said Aaron. “The next day he brought in information packets and told me I should apply. Coach walked me through the whole process – he took me to the interviews and was there for all the appointments.”

Zerbe was there to congratulate Aaron at his Naval Academy graduation in May 2017. Today, Aaron is serving in the U.S. Navy as an information professional in Virginia Beach. At the end of the year, he will continue his service in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

“It was so important that I went to MHS,” said Aaron. “I was able to really focus and make better decisions to become the man I am today.”

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