Area student thrives at Milton Hershey School

PHOTO PROVIDED Milton Hershey School student Mya Ott, of Williamsport, second from right, developed her interest in mechanics from her first shop class in seventh grade. Ott works on repairing automotive parts with her classmates and teacher.

The Milton Hershey School, a cost-free, private, coeducational school for lower income families ages 4-15 and grades pre-kindergarten through 12, recently held a free informational event locally for potential students and families at Hoss’s Steak and Sea House.

The Milton Hershey School provides more one-on-one time, smaller class sizes and access to all of the latest technology to students across the country, mostly from Pennsylvania, including 12 students from Lycoming County.

For one of the students, Mya Ott, a native of Williamsport currently enrolled as a junior at the school, it was the decision of a lifetime that added the tools and opportunities she needed to prepare herself for a better future.

Ott also “gets all medical, dental and clothing taken care of by the school,” according to Keri Straub, senior media relations manager. “So she’s able to not carry about the burdens of poverty and lead a life of comfortability successfully here at Hershey school.”

Before Ott ever enrolled, after hearing about Milton Hershey School’s opportunities form a friend who was, at the time, involved in the interview process, she decided to look into the school herself as a student at Cochran Primary School.

PHOTO PROVIDED Mya Ott works on repairing automotive parts at Milton Hershey School.

“I looked it up online and started reading about the opportunities to be given through the schools,” Ott said. “It sparked my interest because I couldn’t do a lot where I was living then.”

But for Ott, convincing herself of the tools she needed to provide a better future wasn’t enough. She also had to convince her parents.

“It was rough. I had to convince my mom for a month. She didn’t want me to leave,” Ott said. “I really wanted to come to this school because I saw all these things I can do and I finally convinced her to just look at the website. It was really tough getting her to agree with me where she couldn’t come every weekend to see me.”

As for the interview process, Ott was asked questions completely new to her that demonstrated Milton Hershey School’s tolerance, acceptance and open-mindedness. “It in was an interesting interview,” she said. “They asked me very interesting questions.”

One question involved any issues she may have with different races or religions. “The school is very open to everything and trying everything,” she said.

Ott developed a passion for mechanics almost immediately at the school. “When I first came to school I had to take a woodshop class and we had to take apart lawnmower engines and put them back together,” Ott said. “I really liked it.”

She then moved on to an automotive program where her interest only expanded after dealing with car engines and going to airplane shows.

Milton Hershey students can earn up to $87,500 through continuing education programs by maintaining a good ethic and good grades.

Ott could be the first in her family to complete a college education thanks to opportunities presented to her by Milton Hershey.

As a junior, Ott only has one more year before she will begin transitional living. “They live in apartments and you can imagine. Three to four students of the same gender and they’re giving a monthly budget, a debit card,” Straub, said. “The whole goal is to learn time management and how to live independently and how to live on their own.”

It’s an unconventional program that better prepares students for the real world. It “helps them manage their time, money and do things on their own so they leave and their self-sufficient,” Straub said. “Its a really unique program we’ve found such success with them being on their own. We’re teaching them how to buy healthy food properly and live on their own.”

The overall experience has been “very positive and unique,” Ott said. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities to travel to different places … and build relationships with people I’ve never met.”

One of those opportunities includes a service trip to Ghana, where she had an opportunity to experience what cocoa farming is like.

“We went to plant cocoa trees and help a farmer start a farm. We got to experience a different culture and eat the meals they eat,” Ott said Seeing sights … it allowed me to grow in my experience and work ethic; it allowed me to see how different they lived. The people were all so happy. It makes you realize you need to be happy about the littler things.”

After graduation, Ott plans to return to Williamsport and pursue a bachelor’s degree in aviation mechanics at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

For more information on the Milton Hershey School, visit or call 717-520-2000.