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Playing Games

By Clare Ogle, an MHS houseparent

The schedule at Milton Hershey School is rewarding but rigorous—especially in Senior Division. There are chores to be done, rooms to keep clean, study hours to complete, and sports to be played on top of the school day. And our students do all of this while living in a house with 11 other students their age.

In our student home, we’ve found that a good way to keep up with the routine is to change it every so often, and make time to play. That’s right, play. Sometimes we reserve a gym on campus and play speedball or basketball together, or we’ll go outside and play soccer. During the winter months, we might stay inside and play Charades, Scrabble or another board game.

It seems counterintuitive to play games when things are so busy and stressful, but sometimes it’s the perfect break. You’ll never see a high school boy’s face light up faster than when he gets to tell me to “draw two” in a game of Uno. There’s something about playing these games together that really bonds the guys who play.

Scrabble board game closeup.

We don’t always have deep conversations during these games—in fact, sometimes there is very little talking at all. Perhaps that’s what’s so great about it. They can just play. Even in Senior Division, it’s important to let them be kids.

I also believe the hours spent in the gym or playing board games builds a foundation of trust for when those deeper conversations need to happen. Watching each other win and lose helps us learn a little bit more about ourselves and one another.

While it may seem like we’re just “playing games,” for us, it’s time very well spent. Regardless of the score, I think everyone wins.

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