Originally from Birdsboro, Gavin Gatone moved to Hershey when he was in kindergarten after his mother made the decision to enroll him and his two older siblings at Milton Hershey School —a cost-free, private, coeducational school for children from families of lower income in pre-k through 12th grade.
“I was really struggling at the time. I was by myself, working two jobs, and I barely saw my kids,” said Francine Gatone, Gavin’s mother. “I was really poor, and it wasn’t fair to them. I thought the school would be so much better for them.”
At the school, Gavin has joined clubs, sports and extracurricular activities that allow him to discover his interests and develop future goals. As a member of the middle school robotics club, Gavin found his passion for electronics and programming. He also joined the ice hockey team with his older brother—all athletic equipment and robotics technology are cost-free for Gavin’s family.
“It’s really amazing because I could not have provided any of that for him. I couldn’t imagine having to pay for [hockey gear],” Francine said. “I can’t thank the school enough for what they’ve done for my children.”
Having the opportunity to play ice hockey with his brother also makes the experience more exciting and meaningful for Gavin and his family.
“My children being close is very important to me. I was worried that enrolling them at MHS would impact their relationship, but it’s made it better,” Francine said.
Academically, Gavin has achieved honor roll status for several marking periods. He is recognized by his teachers as an imaginative, cooperative student who stands out among his peers as a leader. By excelling at the school, Gavin and his siblings have given their mother the opportunity to advance her education as well and work to break the cycle of poverty for their family.
This year, Francine plans to begin nursing school at a local community college.
“MHS has given me time to go back to school. It’s something I’ve been striving for, and it’s something I would not be able to do if they were home all the time,” Francine said. “As hard as it is to think about your child going away, the opportunity outweighs your emotions,” Francine said. “What you’re giving them is so much greater than anything. They will thank you in the end.”