Milton Hershey School Staff Member Reflects on the Impact of the Charter Bus Program
By Hilda Dimopoulos, MHS Administrative Assistant and Charter Bus Monitor
During my 25 years as a Milton Hershey School employee, there is nothing that I look forward to more than chaperoning our students’ trips home through the school-sponsored Charter Bus Program. To see our students unite with their families after weeks—and sometimes months—apart is an honor.
The opportunities and resources that the school provides its students drew me to want to work at MHS. Through the Charter Bus Program, the school provides transportation for hundreds of students across Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, New England, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., and more during the school’s five major breaks. This ensures that students stay connected with their families and home communities during their time at MHS—for a minimal fee.
Over the years, I have had the privilege of getting to know the families of our students that ride on my bus route—which travels to and from Washington, Pa. As a bus monitor, I get to be a small part of their time at MHS, growing relationships with students I wouldn’t normally get to know and their families.
As a bus monitor, from the moment a student boards the bus, I and the other MHS chaperone on board, are responsible for them. We play games to pass the time, attend to the needs of our students, and are ready to greet their families when we arrive to our destination.
During the global pandemic, the school’s commitment to offering affordable ways for students and families to stay connected remained steadfast by providing gas gift cards to families who came to campus to pick up and return their students before and after major breaks. While I was saddened that I didn’t get to see the smiling faces of the students each break, I was so glad they still experienced the joy of going home.
For any family that chooses to have their student stay on campus during breaks, MHS remains open to accommodate the needs of the students and families we serve. I often reflect on how special it is to work at MHS, which is open 365 days a year. I feel very lucky to work for an organization that offers so many opportunities for staff to engage with students, but also for students to grow and flourish themselves.
Several years ago, I took on relief houseparenting to engage with more students and learn new skills, which is just another example of what MHS helped me to do outside of my day-to-day responsibilities. At MHS, every day is different and offers a new opportunity to stretch yourself and be a role model for our students—that’s why I love being a bus monitor.
I sit on the bus and watch as parents/sponsors and families wave as we pull away to bring their children back to MHS. Those moments can be challenging for our students, but that’s why we provide experienced staff members to make the trip back to Hershey with them. I’m so proud to support our families in this way and to become an extension of the support system they can count on at MHS.