Oscar-exposed Hershey School has sweet deals for new students, hires

HersheyThe Milton Hershey School ad during the Oscars on Sunday night melted the heart faster than Hershey's "Great American Chocolate Bar" campaign.

Underprivileged students enthused how how their lives were changed by the Hershey-subsidized Pre-K-to-12 boarding school, which had operated under the philanthropic radar for 100 years. Call the commercial a 30-second, $1.5 million air-time marketing and public service kiss.

WalletPop figured as long as Hershey is getting the word out, let's find out what might be in it for you. The school is accepting admission applications at its Web site, spokeswoman Connie McNamara told WalletPop on Monday.

The biggest enrollment periods are August, September and January. For your child to qualify, your income will likely have to fall under the poverty line (around $16,000 for a family of four, according to McNamara) and the candidate cannot have been jailed or "been in trouble with the law," she said.

About 400 students are admitted each year. The school values the tuition at a no-cost-to-you $76,000 a year, because it includes housing, meals, healthcare, clothing and practically every other cost of daily life.

Grownups can find work at the Hershey, Pa., campus. The school is looking for house-parents to watch over households between eight and 12 students. That means cooking the meals, helping with homework, and providing a shoulder to cry on. This is a full-time job that operates outside of the foster system, McNamara said.

Housing is provided along with a separate apartment for the parents. Food and utilities are covered. The salary begins at $29,739 and climbs to $35,748 at seven years. The Web site mentioned that the caregivers be married.

Hershey founder Milton Hershey began the school in 1909 for orphan boys, but the school later opened to both genders who have financial and social need. The school had received minor publicity from "Living the Legacy: The Untold Story of Milton Hershey School," a 2009 IFC/Sundance documentary, but nothing like this. Tens of millions watch the Oscar telecast annually. Hershey plans to air a longer version later.

"We want to spread the story of the school," McNamara said, "and also the legacy of Mr. Hershey and this incredible thing he set in motion. People should know about it. This is something that has been going on for 100 years. It's not new or trendy. It's not a fad. Our kids are amazing and resilient. They have faced obstacles and overcome them."

WalletPop had to ask: Do they get chocolate?

McNamara replied: "In moderation."

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