Pa. School For Early Learning Named After City Native
HERSHEY, Pa. — Jamestown native Catherine Hershey’s legacy of philanthropy and commitment to education will continue far into the future, thanks to the recently-announced Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning.
The Milton Hershey School revealed in January that the new school will be part of a cost-free early childhood education initiative which will bear the name of Catherine Hershey and continue the goal of helping young people break the cycle of poverty by providing a holistic pre-K through 12th grade education and home to students facing extreme economic hardship.
Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning will allow MHS to expand the impact of Milton and Catherine Hershey’s vision to serve more children from economically disadvantaged and at-risk backgrounds through education.
“Catherine was a trailblazer,” said Peter G. Gurt ’85, Milton Hershey School President and himself an alumnus. “At a time when women had little involvement in business and legal affairs, Catherine was an equal partner to her husband in founding and growing MHS. When asked years later why he founded MHS, Milton Hershey answered, ‘It was Kitty’s idea.’ As we embark on this exciting and unprecedented expansion of our mission to help children from poverty reach their full potential, it was an easy decision to name this initiative in Catherine’s honor. Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning is her legacy.”
On Nov. 19, 1909, Milton and Catherine Hershey signed the Deed of Trust establishing the Hershey Industrial School (now Milton Hershey School), a home and school for orphaned children.
MHS is now investing $350 million to fund the development of up to six cost-free Early Childhood Resource Centers (ECRCs) in Pennsylvania for children from birth to age 5 from economically disadvantaged and at-risk backgrounds.
According to hersheyarchives.org, Catherine Elizabeth Sweeney was born on July 6, 1871 in Jamestown to Irish immigrant parents.
Sweeney attended Jamestown High School but did not graduate, instead entering the labor force where found a job as a clerk in a jewelry store.
In 1897, Milton Hershey, already a successful businessman, stopped in Jamestown to visit A.D. Work’s Confectionery where he met Sweeney and the two began their relationship.
Sweeney would move to New York City to work in Altman’s Department Store during their courtship, which was concluded by a wedding on May 25, 1898.
Catherine Hershey died on March 25, 1915 in Philadelphia.