Houseparent Recruiter Shares Firsthand Experience and Passion for the Role
Featuring Salim Hanna, Milton Hershey School Recruiter
As a previous camp and conference center employee, Salim (Sal) Hanna has always had a passion for impacting the lives of youth. Sal and his wife, Melissa, learned about Milton Hershey School through family members who were flex houseparents. The Hannas were interested in the houseparent role but needed to be married for at least three years before they could apply.
“I was sold on the job as soon as we learned about the mission of the school and realized we would have the opportunity to directly impact the lives of children,” Hanna said.
After having their two daughters, the Hannas uprooted their lives from snowy Michigan to move to Hershey, Pennsylvania, to live in a houseparent apartment attached to a student home with eight to 12 students of the same gender.
As houseparents, the Hannas managed a student home of high school girls while providing whole child care, as they would with their own children. Their daily responsibilities were preparing students for school, transporting them to and from student activities, managing daily chores, cooking meals, and helping with homework.
“You are a paid stay-at-home parent,” Hanna said. “Houseparents have the flexibility to build their own schedules but have the structure of a school day to guide them.”
By living in the residence, the Hannas created a family-like atmosphere with their students as they celebrated the highs and lows of everyday life. As houseparents, couples are allowed to have no more than two dependent children living in the residence. This allows both children and students the opportunity to grow together and make life-long memories.
“For us, it was important that our daughters saw us caring for others and they learned to share us with the students,” Hanna said. “We wanted them to grow up with empathy, understanding, and loving all people—no matter their circumstances.”
After serving five years as a houseparent and 16 months as a Home Life administrator, Sal was offered an opportunity to help recruit new houseparents in the Human Resources department.
As the largest residential school in the United States, MHS hires houseparent couples on an ongoing basis to care for over 2,000 students. As MHS continues to grow to serve more children, the need to hire new houseparent couples is critical to fulfilling our mission.
“We have a lot of houseparents here at MHS, but lives change, people retire, and there is just a natural need for qualified couples to apply,” Hanna said. “We are looking for couples who are passionate about setting childhood foundations and teaching valuable life skills.”
For interested candidates, MHS offers free virtual webinars called Online Information Sessions, where Sal and his team of recruiters discuss the houseparent role in detail and answer questions live with participants.
“I love being able to share my experience as a houseparent with prospective couples and give them helpful insights before they apply,” Hanna said. “This role is not a job; it is a lifestyle. You are trading your 9-to-5 job to eternally impact students who may not have had the opportunity to succeed without MHS.”
Sal and his wife, Melissa, loved and missed houseparenting so much that they decided to return to the role in Summer of 2022.