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An Impactful Career: Houseparenting at Milton Hershey School

By Ashley Hoover, MHS Houseparent

Our journey to houseparenting at Milton Hershey School started long before 2013. We were tired of clocking in and out at a job every day simply for a paycheck and longed for work that was meaningful, would make a difference, and leave a lasting impact.

In 2011, we were living halfway across the country, pregnant with our first child, and searching for an occupation that checked all of those boxes. That’s when we found MHS. The school was hiring for a position called houseparents. It was everything we were looking for.

Milton Hershey School students attend the band concert of Ashley and Joe's son.

Milton Hershey School students attend the band concert of Ashley and Joe’s son.

The day after my 27th birthday, we filled out our applications online and by August, now with two kids under two, we were beginning a career as houseparents.

We need to pause at this point in the narrative.

Have you ever gone to see a movie in the theater? Perhaps it is a film that you have been waiting months or years for. Maybe it is the next in your favorite series. You have watched every trailer, every press interview, and read every anticipatory article; you are ready! You grab your popcorn and candy and settle into your seat. The previews end, the lights go down, and the moment is finally here. You could not be more prepared for this. However, just minutes into the film, the plot takes an unexpected turn and everything you thought was going to happen is upended and replaced by an entirely different and even more intricate storyline. 

That has been our houseparenting journey. 

When my husband, Joe, and I began our jobs at MHS, we were prepared. We conducted research, learned the history of the school and town, drove around campus, and watched videos about the mission. Our purpose was clear—we were going to make an impact.

However, as the months and year passed, the plot took an unexpected turn. The more students we met, the more lives we became invested in. The more we realized the resulting impact was primarily on our lives.

Ashley and Joe celebrate with members of the Milton Hershey School Class of 2022 that lived in their student home.

Ashley and Joe celebrate with members of the Milton Hershey School Class of 2022 that lived in their student home.

After nearly nine years, we have had the opportunity of caring for more than 40 students at our student home, not to mention the 100 or more students we got to know during our time as flex houseparents. The relationships we have forged with each one of those kids and their families has impacted our lives tremendously.

It has shifted and shaped the way we view the world. As our students have shared stories of discrimination and hatred levied toward them based on skin color, ethnicity, or social status it has opened our eyes to experiences we have never had and deepened our understanding and empathy.

I started this position with a single narrative of what a student in need looked like and what being a houseparent to those students would be like. The plot shift has been challenging and more wonderful than we could have ever imagined.

If you and your spouse are interested in pursuing a new career that will make a difference, attend an upcoming Online Information Session to learn more about houseparenting at MHS.

Milton Hershey School does not discriminate in admissions or other programs and services on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, sex, religious creed or disability. Read important MHS policies on equal opportunity and diversity, equal employment opportunity, and more.