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CHS Center Experiences: Honoring a Legacy and Fostering Play

Upon considering what to name Milton Hershey School’s (MHS) early childhood education initiative to initially open six Early Childhood Education Centers in Pennsylvania, it was obvious that Catherine Hershey should be honored. Catherine Hershey was a visionary educational philanthropist and the co-founder of MHS. Her husband Milton S. Hershey, often referred to MHS as her idea. As the inspiration for Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning (CHS), each CHS location will incorporate elements and experiences that pay tribute to Catherine’s legacy, passions, and beliefs.

The first ECEC opened in September 2023 in Hershey, Pennsylvania, with elements that pay homage to Catherine and the Hersheys’ legacy on display. The experiences, incorporated throughout the building, provide children, families, staff, and visitors with experiences that connect them to our rich history while providing engaging, hands-on activities that nurture, educate, and empower.

Catherine Hershey Rose

Upon arriving at CHS Hershey, individuals are greeted by peach-colored roses. The roses, which honor Mrs. Hershey, were designed in partnership between Hershey Gardens, CHS, and Jane Gurt, wife of MHS and CHS President Pete Gurt, and launched in 2023. In addition to CHS locations, the rose can be found on the MHS campus and is featured alongside the M.S. Hershey Rose in the M.S. Hershey Tribute Garden at Hershey Gardens, as well as in the Historic Hershey Rose Garden.

Mr. Hershey’s Words of Wisdom

In the entrance to CHS Hershey, the words of Milton S. Hershey hang above guests with one of Mr. Hershey’s most known quotes, “There is not a person alive who should not plant a tree – not for the shade that you’ll enjoy, but for those who are coming after.” A symbolic and iconic tree immediately follows, hovering over the lobby.

Hugs & Kisses from Catherine

Keeping the lobby experience both educational and interactive, children can enjoy a game of tic-tac-toe at the Hugs and Kisses from Catherine display. The activity, which also includes visual artifacts of Catherine’s, is inspired by a program established by Jane Gurt. The mentoring program promotes kindness and confidence for female MHS students from Pre-K through grade 12.

The CHS Approach

On the other side of the lobby, children, families, and guests can learn about CHS’ unique programming model through an interactive display. Each flower highlights an element of our program: High-quality teaching and early learning, Two-generational impact, Whole-child supports, and Defining, measuring, and delivering success. Additionally, children have the opportunity to engage with interactive elements that start or finish their day at CHS in a playful way.

CHS Hershey Program Model Wall
CHS Hershey Community Connection

Community Connection

Allowing children to learn about the history, supports, and resources that surround them, featured in the lobby is an interactive map of the local community. At CHS Hershey, included are key community resources and landmarks such as the post office, hospital, fire station, library, and police station. The map also features historic locations including Highpoint Mansion, Founders Hall, and, of course, Hersheypark. At future CHS locations, this activity will be unique to each local community in which the Center is located.

Honoring Catherine

Educating families and guests outside of the Family Success Center is an area that provides information about and honors Catherine Hershey, particularly on the mark she left on Hershey, PA, and beyond to improve the lives of people in her community.

Combining Catherine’s Passions and Play

Throughout the hallways of CHS Hershey are geometric windows and colorful benches. These subtle features offer a playful opportunity for children to view the outdoors and assist in shape and color recognition. Bench colors coordinate with the 12 classrooms at CHS Hershey, which are each named after a plant, flower, or insect as a nod to Catherine’s love for planning and enjoying gardens.

Nature Room Titles

STEM Garden

Outside, the STEM Garden again represents Catherine Hershey’s love of gardening and exploration. The space offers children a hands-on, fun learning environment to focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math exploration. The STEM Garden features an activity titled “Kitty’s Hide and Seek” with historical photos of Catherine that feature a variety of animals, connecting children to the philanthropist in a playful way while also instructing children to learn about and locate the animals displayed throughout the garden.

“Kitty’s Hide and Seek” in the CHS Hershey STEM Garden
CHS Hershey Courtyard


As CHS continues to expand with six locations across central Pennsylvania, building occupants will be reminded of the Hersheys’ legacy and roots that tie Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning back to Hershey, PA with a subtle touch, HERSHEY’S KISSES. At CHS Hershey, HERSHEY’S KISSES are imprinted in the courtyard, which serves as a secondary play and gathering space for children and families.

Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning are subsidiaries of Milton Hershey School and will be staffed and operated independently of the Milton Hershey School core model.

Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.