Life-Long Youth Mentors Become Houseparents at Milton Hershey School
Featuring Joe and Ashley Hoover, MHS Houseparents
Pennsylvania native Ashley Hoover and her husband, Joe, share a passion for mentoring youth. It’s what brought them together and inspired them to get married.
“As a teen, it was important to me to have relationships with people outside of my immediate family to lean on for support,” Ashley said. “My mentors were foundational in my growth and personal learning.”
Joe shares the same sentiment, “Ashley and I met when we were both volunteering with youth and recognized that we began to invest more time into our volunteer work than our careers.”
As newlyweds, they soon realized they wanted to turn their desire to help youth into their life’s work. That’s when the Hoovers started to look into new career opportunities near Ashley’s family in Lancaster, Pa. and relocated from Iowa. They stumbled upon a houseparenting website and learned about the residential houseparent role at Milton Hershey School.
“When we first applied, we were not eligible because of age requirements,” Joe said. “But we moved back to the area, found temporary jobs, and applied when we fit the criteria.”
The Hoovers went through the extensive interview process, visited campus, and were offered the position when Ashley was pregnant with their second child. A few months later, they joined a cohort of 10-12 couples to participate in three days of school-wide orientation and following with three weeks of training specific to the role. Afterwards, they started in the flex role where they shadowed other seasoned houseparents, provided temporary coverage of student homes, and began developing student-staff relationships.
Once a couple is assigned their own student home, they oversee eight to 12 students of the same age and gender. Their family lives in an attached apartment to the student home with a private entrance and patio, several bedrooms, bathrooms, a living area, and kitchen with appliances. Houseparents are allowed to live with up to two dependent children on campus.
The Hoovers find value in their children seeing them serve others through their profession and having their family walk through this journey together.
Ashley added “I love hearing my children wrap their minds around the student experience here. We are given many teaching opportunities for our students and children to learn from one another in the student home and grow with empathy.”
The houseparenting schedule encourages couples to spend time with their family, build relationships in the community, and invest in personal hobbies and skills. During their days off, families are able to emphasize making memories together.
“Sometimes you have to remind me that this is really our job,” Joe said. “We truly enjoy having the opportunity to work together as a family to fulfill the school’s mission and be a part of this holistic community.”
MHS prides itself on creating a community of diverse professionals who support one another and participate in mentorship programs with students and staff to build lasting relationships beyond graduation.
“This role allows us to make meaningful connections, focus on our family, and give time to ourselves and others,” Ashley said. “As many professionals have the weekend to take care of household chores, we are able to complete these tasks during the week, so on the weekends we can unwind and participate in fun activities as a student home.”
With a shared passion for service, the Hoovers are proud to work in a profession where they can impact the future generations to come. Ashley added, “It’s a tough job, but we remind ourselves daily of the impact we are making and how we may never see the generational impact from mentoring one student. But it’s always there—even if unnoticed today.”
Interested couples can learn more about the houseparent role by attending an Online Information Session where MHS recruiters and current houseparents discuss the Home Life role in detail and answer questions live.
“Here at MHS, you can use your gifts and talents to support the students outside of the classroom and make a difference in their lives,” Joe said. “I would encourage couples who are looking for impactful careers to apply and learn more because this job is worth every minute.”