By Terry Donaher, an MHS houseparent
When I came to Milton Hershey School as a seventh-grader in 1992, I remember being dropped off by my mother and stepfather and receiving a tour of the student home by my housemates. At that point, I had to rely on my housemates and my houseparents who were all strangers to me.
My houseparents did a great job creating a family environment for us. They taught us a lot and made us who we are today.
For me, the houseparent role had the greatest impact on my life as a student, and I don’t lose sight of that. I knew when my wife and I came back to MHS to become houseparents, we wanted to create the same sort of environment for our students.
Houseparenting has been the best fit for us. We try to organically combine what we do with our personal children with our MHS students to create a true family setting. Having been a houseparent for close to 10 years, it’s just so natural for us.
Our home has become a real family environment. It’s nurturing, and our students know we care about them and always want to provide for them. I think that gives them the sense of security and belonging they need.
We’ve always wanted to instill the idea that family is first and everything else comes second.
That strong family bond is why I came back to Milton Hershey School. I always felt that with my houseparents, and we want to create that for our students as well.
Terry Donaher and his wife Sarah are houseparents in the Elementary Division. They also have two children.