The Importance of Family Engagement at Milton Hershey School
By Jay Garvey, MHS Family Relations Manager
We like to think of Milton Hershey School as way more than a school—it’s a community that rallies to guide, mentor, and support our students and their families from the first time they set foot on campus through graduation day and beyond. While our community is filled with trusted adults who are always there for our students, parents and sponsors play a crucial role in their student’s success.
Parents and sponsors are biological relatives, guardians, or caretakers who want what is best for the children entrusted in their care. At MHS, we partner with our parents and sponsors because—when they are active participants in their child’s education—the more connected they feel to the school and the more confident they can be that MHS is the right place for their family.
Family engagement helps our families grow and be part of the mission. Through Family Weekend events, visits to the Gertude Gurt Family Center, and in-person and virtual support groups, our goal at MHS is to equip, empower, and engage all parents and sponsors. Our dedicated Family Relations team builds trusting relationships with families, offers resources, and encourages them to be involved in their student’s experience. Through these ways and many others, parents and sponsors enter the MHS family and can focus on bettering themselves while their child lives and learns at MHS.
This approach also is being implemented at Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning, a subsidiary of MHS through the school’s early childhood education (ECE) initiative. While the CHS Family Engagement model will look a little different because of the ages of the children who will learn at CHS centers, the foundational principles remain the same.
This spring, CHS hosted an ECE Leaders Summit with one of the breakout sessions focused on Family Engagement. National experts described the two-generation approach to ECE—meaning when the child and the parents are supported that leads to a better whole-family well-being. One of the experts, Sarah Haight, director for 2Gen practice at Ascend at the Apsen Institute, explained it as: “When we do right by families, we all do better.” Also, “The greatest predictor of a child’s trajectory is the parent’s achievement.”
At MHS and CHS, we are proud to support and encourage our families to help them find their own personal success while their student receives a quality education. Some of our parents and sponsors are working towards college degrees, setting themselves up for financial stability, and maintaining careers because they know that their children are in a safe and caring environment. Every student’s and caregiver’s situation is unique, and it is our role in Family Relations to provide the tools for the entire family to succeed and live fulfilling and productive lives.