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Milton Hershey School officer values relationships with students

Former state trooper helps MHS students become comfortable with law enforcement

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Milton Hershey School Campus Safety Officer Tracy Shull regularly visits the school’s Middle Division cafeteria to interact with students while eating lunch.

Milton Hershey School

Content provided by Milton Hershey School

“Miss Tracy, Miss Tracy!” is the most repeated phrase heard throughout Milton Hershey School’s middle school on a late Tuesday morning. “Miss Tracy” is MHS Campus Safety Officer Tracy Shull.

As the Middle Division students hustle from one classroom to another, or lunch, they often notice Shull before she sees them. Most greet her with a smile and a hug. One girl, with tears in her eyes, was relieved to see Shull because she needed to talk through a problem with a trusted adult. Moments later, she felt better thanks to Miss Tracy.

Shull joined the MHS Campus Safety Team seven years ago, after completing a 17-year career with the Pennsylvania State Police.

Her previous career followed the Pennsylvania State Police Core Values of honor, service, integrity, respect, trust, duty, and courage. Transitioning to MHS was natural for Shull. The school’s students, faculty, and staff follow MHS Sacred Values of Commitment to Mission, Integrity, Positive Spirit, and Mutual Respect.

Shull takes all values seriously, but respect—a common thread between Pennsylvania State Police and MHS—helps her connect with students in pre-K through 12th grade.

Forming relationships with students, centered around compassion, is her favorite part of the job. Shull and other Campus Safety officers participate in the school’s Safety Officers Advancing Relationships (SOAR) program, which helps students better understand the officers’ jobs.

“I tell the students that my job is to keep them safe,” Shull said. “Some refer to me as their personal bodyguard.”

Shull watches over all the students equally but their admiration for her is no accident. In addition to SOAR, Shull has participated in the MHS Co-Pilot Mentoring program for elementary students. Meeting students at a young age allowed Shull to grow her relationship with them as they progress through Middle and Senior Divisions. She also participates in the MHS Mentoring Our Leaders’ Development program (M.O.L.D.).

SOAR, Co-Pilot, and M.O.L.D. are optional for staff to participate in but a part of her job that she enjoys. The relationships she forms with students often continue after they graduate from MHS.

“Many of our students have had bad experiences with police officers. I explain to them that police and campus safety officers’ primary job is to keep them safe. If an officer did something they shouldn’t have done, that doesn’t mean we are all bad—adults can make mistakes just like kids can,” Shull said.

Sixth-grader Charlotte Michel appreciates Shull’s visits to her student home. Sometimes, Shull even brings the kids a special treat.

“She’s sweet, literally and figuratively,” Charlotte said.

All MHS children live at school in a family-like atmosphere in a student home or Transitional Living apartment. Shull and her fellow Campus Safety officers are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. During routine patrols, Shull often visits student homes to meet students and their houseparents.

Shull enjoys the challenge of helping students, especially Middle Division students, break out of their shell. She jokingly refers to herself as the “20 questions girl” because she asks them about their day, grades, extracurricular activities, and meals.

“The kids really enjoy it when you take the time to listen to them, it’s the best part of my job,” Shull said.

When interacting with Elementary Division students, Shull drops the “20 questions girl” persona and lets the kids lead the conversation. On a recent Sunday afternoon, bright smiles filled the faces of first- through fourth-grade girls when Shull visited student home Westmoor. At their request, Shull took a seat at a student’s desk and read them a story. One student placed a small plastic dog on the desk because it reminded her of the campus safety officer—Chase the police/security dog from “Paw Patrol.” As she left to continue her patrols, one girl handed her freshly-baked cookies.

“You are always bringing us candy, this is for you,” Amilah Jones said.

Shull then stopped at student home Heinz, where the students showed her the art and Lego projects they completed during the previous day’s rainstorm. The next stop, student home Eisenhower, Shull listened to young girls describe their efforts to grow peppers from seeds.

A call to unlock a bathroom at Copenhaver Gym gave her a chance to see hundreds of Senior Division students and houseparents participating in a dodgeball tournament. Shull keeps her friendly demeanor with Senior Division students but isn’t afraid to directly guide them if necessary.

Her communication styles work. On Family Weekends, students are often excited to introduce Miss Tracy to their parents/sponsors.

“They appreciate that Campus Safety takes the time to interact with their kids,” she said.

Shull and her fellow campus safety officers take pride in providing around-the-clock patrols, campus monitoring, and emergency planning. MHS is the only pre-K through 12th grade residential school with dual accreditation status from the Commission on Accreditation for the Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).

The Campus Safety team’s experience and accreditation prove they can handle difficult situations, when necessary, but Shull is thankful she gets to spend most of her time being “Miss Tracy” and making lasting impacts on students’ lives.

Milton Hershey School is a top-tier school for qualifying students in pre-K through 12th grade. The school covers all costs for all students who attend.