A History of Student Health Services Provided for the Milton Hershey School Community
Featuring Chris Rich, MHS Senior Manager of Student Health Services
Shortly after marrying Milton S. Hershey, Catherine Hershey joined and was an active member of Lancaster Charity Society, an organization that shared a common interest in providing practical self-help and aid to the poor as well as training young people to be self-sufficient. She was a great advocate for student health services at Hershey Industrial School.
Milton and Catherine Hershey knew the vital importance social services would play in the success of their school for children in need. Catherine’s early work in Lancaster, Pennsylvania foreshadowed the need for social services in their students’ and families’ lives at Hershey Industrial School (now, Milton Hershey School).
Fast forward to over a century later, you can still find a dynamic student health services team at MHS focused on aiding students and their families.
“Social workers work with families in addressing needs as they arise,” said Chris Rich, MHS Senior Manager of Student Health Services. “Social workers help families meet their basic needs such as food, housing, and health services while connecting them to community resources available.”
The well-being of the whole child has been a priority since the school’s founding in 1909. As early as the mid-1920s, every teacher had to be a college graduate who had taken courses in psychology as well as education.
In 1930, Berta Harm transitioned from teaching to school psychologist in the admissions department and continued in the role for 20 years. At that time, with consultation from a child’s welfare expert, the MHS Division of Student Welfare and Education was created with the addition of a professionally trained social worker as the head of the department.
The 50th anniversary of the school gave school leaders the opportunity to assemble a committee of nationally recognized experts, the Anniversary Evaluation Committee, to access programs and recommend fundamental changes for improvement.
The school identified specific areas for the committee to evaluate and provide suggestions such as, “The extent of social services needed—with students, with families of students, with staff working with students, number and kind of social service staff, psychiatric service, and records.”
Today, the heart of the work of MHS Student Health Services is meeting the needs of the MHS community as they arise. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented its challenges and MHS Social Workers have stepped up and supported MHS families as they navigate through new challenges.
“We have called to check on families, helped them problem solve concerns such as remote learning, food insecurity, child care issues, housing, and health care,” Rich said. “We have provided encouragement and reassurance as they navigate the new challenges that COVID-19 has brought.”
Regardless of the challenge, MHS Student Health Services remains focused on the future care of the whole child. Rich was reminded of how transformative the role of a social worker can be when he received a special call from an MHS parent/sponsor during COVID-19.
“She called to thank me for helping her and her family during a difficult time,” Rich said. “That was a really special moment for me and reminded me why this is such a special place to work. I am lucky to be a part of a students’ development into adulthood and walk alongside families throughout their time at MHS.”
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.