Poverty Talks Series Hosted by Lisa Scullin: Engaging with Parents/Sponsors at Milton Hershey School
By Lisa Scullin, MHS Vice President of Communications
In 1981, American novelist, Toni Morrison shared in Essence magazine: “I don’t think one parent can raise a child. I don’t think two parents can raise a child. You really need the whole village.”
I see these words come to life on the Milton Hershey School campus every day. A cost-free residential school for boys and girls in pre-K through 12th grade from financially disadvantaged families—MHS creates a village that supports each child. We partner with parents and sponsors to create a loving and caring team that focuses on all needs—educational, social-emotional, medical, psychological, and more to help them learn and grow into adults leading healthy, fulfilling, and productive lives. It’s what our school’s Deed of Trust requires. It’s achieved by an unwavering commitment from each and every member of our community.
Recently, MHS hosted its second discussion in our livestream series called Poverty Talks. These conversations bring together leaders from across campus, each with their own area of expertise, to discuss our mission and the supports we have in place to help students succeed. Our latest discussion was centered around the key role that parents and sponsors play in the “village” created at MHS.
During this conversation, we walked through the application process and the road to get to MHS, while also discussing the resources in place to help parents/sponsors navigate their child’s journey as a student. We concluded by highlighting the additional supports MHS provides to parents/sponsors by our team of social workers. Woven into the conversation were stories from parents and sponsors of current students and graduates including, Rosanna MacKinnon, whose son graduated in 2021.
“Since the first day we entered into the great place that MHS is, I was always amazed with the outstanding excellence and commitment,” said Rosanna MacKinnon, MHS parent/sponsor. “MHS has changed the futures of many kids who didn’t believe they could graduate high school or attend college. You have enriched the lives of our kids and made an impact. You have created an environment of love, learning, and light.”
Hearing words of gratitude from our parents and sponsors alongside the expert work of our staff reminds us that we are all working together for the same outcome. We consider the relationships with our parents and sponsors to be a critically important factor in the work we do. We all work together for the best interests of each student, because we all want what’s best for the children in our lives.
In this conversation, Dr. Heather Teter, MHS Senior Manager of Student Health Services shared research which indicates that students with engaged parents perform better academically and behaviorally. She also stated that there is social capital for parents to gain by being involved in their child’s school.
Ododo Walsh ’98, MHS Senior Director of Home Life and Student Leadership, and Sarah Pearson, MHS Family Relations and New Student Transition Counselor, talked about the genuine, meaningful, and supportive relationships created and nurtured to connect parents/sponsors to the entire MHS community.
“A key part of our role is to help children and families make the transition from life at home to a different kind of home and routine,” said Walsh. “We want to make that adjustment process as smooth as possible so that MHS becomes a second home.”
Some additional connections include weekly e-newsletters, wellness workshops, book clubs, interactive sessions, family weekends, support groups, and our new Spartan Family Engagement Center—a space on campus designed just for our families to attend workshops and visit with their kids.
We appreciate our MHS village—especially our parents and sponsors—because we know the decision to enroll a child at a residential school is not an easy one for many families. We are dedicated to supporting not just our students, but the most important people in their lives, too. We understand it takes all of us to bring to life the vision and village that our founders, Milton and Catherine Hershey, created so many years ago that is still thriving and growing, just like the children it supports.