It Takes a Village: Milton Hershey School is a Supportive Community
Featuring Sarah Pearson and Alyssa Hostetter, MHS Family Relations Counselors
Milton Hershey School is more than a school. We are a community made up of teachers, administrators, staff, houseparents, parents/sponsors, alumni, and students. Each of these groups support each other, work together, and do their part to further the legacy of Milton and Catherine Hershey.
Our mission-driven sense of community is the heartbeat of our school and the empowering force behind everything we do. As a residential school for students from low-income and at-risk backgrounds, our students have experienced a lot of challenges and adversity in their young lives– often not having the resources or supports traditionally associated with success. For example, 56% of our students have accumulated one or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) before the age of 18. These ACEs are stressors that can have lasting impacts on the child’s development and the complexities related to poverty can amplify these stressors.
At the recent annual conference for the Coalition for Residential Excellence (CORE), a national organization of children’s homes and boarding schools, we learned the critical importance for community and relationship for our students who have experienced ACEs. Michelle Maikoetter, an education expert and Chief Program Officer at Cal Farley Boy’s Ranch, presented on the impact adversity has on children in her talk titled, “Never Enough: Working Addiction.” According to Maikoetter, positive relationships and a sense of community creates an environment possible for children to work through and hopefully overcome the impacts of the ACEs they have experienced.
At MHS, as part of our whole child approach to care and education, we have the resources to support students as well as their families while their children are enrolled. This school year, MHS Family Relations opened the Spartan Family Engagement Center as a central location on our campus for parents/sponsors to engage with the MHS community. The Center hosts events such as Family Weekends throughout the year, organizes activities for parents/sponsors, and provides access to resources. In addition, parents/sponsors receive weekly email updates from the School and remain in close contact with their child’s houseparents to ensure they are partners in their child’s education. Students are also encouraged to form positive relationships through mentorship programs and extracurricular activities where they can connect with trusted adults and make friendships to which they can turn for advice and support.
The common saying, “it takes a village,” rings true at MHS and these are just a few examples of how we address the needs and create opportunities for the members of our MHS family to break through their circumstances and struggles.