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Why I Came Back to Milton Hershey School as a Houseparent

By Joel Smith ’02, MHS Houseparent

Developing my style of houseparenting came from my houseparents. They helped me so much and led me to become a more responsible person. They were nurturers and showed us how to work together. They modeled what healthy relationships should look like. Now as a houseparent, I can share that example with my students.

I came back to Milton Hershey School because I wanted to help forge more relationships with students. I wanted to be to students now what my houseparents have been to me—a friendly face that’s going to be interested in everything they do from the point they’re in our student home to when they graduate and up until the next time we see them again.

Milton Hershey School alumnus, Joel Smith '02, sits with friends at MHS.

Houseparenting is a rewarding job. Like other jobs, it also presents challenges. It’s important to recognize how much of an example you are setting for students every day. You are teaching them how to be responsible and how to build great relationships.

My experiences as a houseparent now bring back memories of when I was a student. I can go back, share those stories with my students, and we can laugh. I’ll say, “Oh, I remember this time when my houseparents and I did this or we did that, and this is what came out of it.” I can use these memories to help teach my students, too. Being able to see so many parallels from my own experience at MHS to my students’ experiences now, is an amazing experience. We share a common thread throughout our stories and it’s so rewarding to support them, guide them, and be a listening ear.

Alumni, Staff Honor Housefathers at Milton Hershey School

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