A defining moment, early in Peter Gurt’s life, shaped his career path in many unexpected ways.
The youngest of eight children from Northeast Philadelphia, Gurt had a non-traditional upbringing. His father, Ray, died prior to Gurt’s second birthday. To make ends meet, and on a family friend’s suggestion, Gurt’s mother enrolled him and his two brothers in the Milton Hershey School, a private boarding school located in Hershey, Pa., where children from low-income, disadvantaged backgrounds are offered an education free of cost.
What happened soon after helped shape Gurt’s life.
Rising above challenging moments and seizing afforded opportunities were skills that ensured Gurt’s story would have a happy ending.
He was provided a chance to study at Milton Hershey School, and later continued his education at Temple University.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the opportunity to attend Milton Hershey School,” said Gurt, BBA ’89, “and as a first-generation college-goer, I was worried I wouldn’t have the wherewithal to persist and succeed (at Temple). I had those moments of doubt, but there were always professors around to plug me into an activity to keep me going. I have the fondest of memories from my time at Temple.”
At the time Gurt attended Milton Hershey School, it was a tight-knit, boys-only institution. Today, it serves children – grades pre-kindergarten through 12th – of all backgrounds. While its student population has changed, the Milton Hershey School has never altered its mission: to provide an education for children who are facing the strongest odds.
“Mr. Hershey once said that if his school could help 100 kids then it would be worthwhile,” Gurt said.
At Temple, and in what was then known as the School of Business and Management, Gurt found an institution steeped in similar educational traditions.
“I remember coming from a small, protective environment like Milton Hershey School, coming to a large, urban school, but with the same type of intimacy feel,” Gurt said. “I never felt like it was too big. It’s what made me feel at home here.”
Perhaps that was why Gurt was so pleased to announce a partnership between his two alma maters.
Labeled the College and Career Transition Program, which begins in the spring 2015 semester, 16 seniors from Milton Hershey School will complete a general-education courseload of 15 college credits through Temple University Harrisburg. Professors from TU Harrisburg will teach the courses, in subjects like math, English, U.S. society and psychology, on Milton Hershey School’s campus.
The program will run annually, between Milton Hershey School seniors and Temple University Harrisburg professors.
“One of the things we wanted to establish for our seniors was the opportunity to earn those credits under our supervision, support and guidance, before they even technically graduate from high school,” Gurt said.
“One of the reasons we chose Temple,” he added, “was it has been exceptionally successful with our students. We serve approximately 450 students from the (Philadelphia) area, so it’s close to their home. Twenty of our grads are enrolled at Temple, and Temple has a high success rate with our students in terms of graduating on time and helping them find jobs after college.”
The College and Career Transition Program will give select Milton Hershey School students a leg up, a concept to which most of them are probably unfamiliar.
“Kids who grow up in an environment where they are disadvantaged need champions and cheerleaders, too,” Gurt said. “Both Milton Hershey School and Temple University provided that for me, and gave me the strength to convince myself that I could succeed even after I hit that first wall.
“Temple was a special place for me in my life, and to have students start their college educations there is terrific.”