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Professional Actors Seek Houseparent Role at Milton Hershey School

Stephen and Jessica Atherholt left their lives as professional actors to pursue a career as houseparents at Milton Hershey School. They came to MHS because of a theatre relationship and truly wanted to make an impact on students’ lives.

Jessica Atherholt acting at Sight and Sound Theatre

Photography credited to Sight and Sound Theatre. Jessica Atherholt playing the role of Mary in The Miracle of Christmas.

“Stephen and I were both working in a show when my ‘stage husband’ and his wife left to become Elementary Division houseparents at MHS,” Jessica Atherholt said. “We stayed in contact with them and after their glowing reviews—we applied ourselves.”

The Atherholts continue to teach the importance of the arts to their students. Before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, student home Shawnee visited Sight and Sound Theatre in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to see a few shows.

SH Shawnee at Sight and Sound theatre

“We have taken our students to see two shows so far at Sight and Sound where my husband and I met,” Atherholt said. “We toured backstage, visited the animal actors in the barns, and saw sets being built for new shows. Those visits are a highlight for our girls and they share their experience with every new student who comes into our home.”

As actors, the Atherholts are used to big personalities. That experience has served them well as houseparents of 12 teenage girls.

SH Shawnee students

“We have worked with actors for many years and are used to drama,” Atherholt said. “In the theatre, we were taught to keep our emotions right below the surface and access them at a moment’s notice. Actors are also the most fun—just like our girls.”

Milton Hershey School is currently employing over 200 houseparent couples to oversee student homes and provide structure for MHS students year-round. MHS provides competitive pay and benefits. Houseparent couples live in a private apartment connected to a student home. They care for eight to 12 students of the same gender and age range.

SH Shawnee students and houseparents

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many industries throughout the country, including the Arts and Culture sector, displaced theatre professionals are a particularly good fit for this demanding role. Their discipline mixed with flexibility sets them up for success at MHS, for however long they choose to stay.

Milton Hershey School is carefully following federal and state guidelines, CDC considerations, and MHS-established health and safety protocols to keep our campus a safe, nurturing, and healthy place. Any group photos of unmasked subjects were taken prior to the face coverings mandate.

Milton Hershey School does not discriminate in admissions or other programs and services on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, sex, religious creed or disability. Read important MHS policies on equal opportunity and diversity, equal employment opportunity, and more.