By Terry Donaher, an MHS houseparent
Students come to Milton Hershey School for a variety of reasons, and a lot of that happens to come from their home dynamic. It might be a single family, it might be a single parent, or it might involve being raised by grandparents. They might not have a stable environment.
In our student home, we want them to know there will always be food on the table. They’ll always have a clean bed, and the lights and water will always be on.
Knowing that they’ll always have both of us here as a houseparent couple also gives them a sense of family and a sense of comfort—it’s consistent for them.
The group of kids in our student home are four and five years old. They’re brand new to MHS, and they definitely come with a lot of energy, love, and a thirst for knowledge. They’re fun. I look forward to when they wake up and I look forward to spending time with them. By the end of the day, it can sometimes be exhausting because they’re so full of energy. I wish I could harness some of their energy and use it myself. They truly find ways to lift me up, and they don’t even know they’re doing that.
That’s what’s so special about working with elementary students. They care about us unconditionally and their energy level is contagious. They’re excited, everything is new and fresh, and they want to keep doing everything we’re offering them. They appreciate it and they get along great together—every day is new and full of smiles.
When they know they can always depend on us as houseparents, it gives them a real sense of comfort knowing they don’t have to worry.
Terry Donaher and his wife Sarah are houseparents in the Elementary Division. They also have two children.