MHS Health and Wellness Update from the President
I hope you’ve been keeping safe and healthy during these challenging times. As we continue to care for and educate students amid the challenging realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, I wanted to provide an update of how Milton Hershey School has been working tirelessly on our health and wellness to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of our students.
Our priority has been to continue to serve our students during a critical time when they’re most in need of support. We recognize the conditions imposed by COVID-19 can bring additional anxiety and emotional distress for many of our students. With that in mind, we’ve taken a series of steps designed to cast the widest possible net of support, including:
- Conducting needs assessments with students and parents/sponsors on additional supports needed for students’ return to campus and their classroom learning during the pandemic;
- Implementing telehealth services, including consultations with parents/sponsors;
- Wellness Wednesday e-newsletters to help promote mental health among Senior Division;
- New video messages and resources/tips for Middle Division about health and wellness;
- Virtual morning meeting lessons and the Counselor’s Corner newsletter for our Elementary Division; and
- An enhanced emphasis on social and emotional learning for Year-Round Experiences (YRE) programming.
In addition to the comprehensive on-campus health and safety measures that we implemented at the onset of the pandemic, we want to remind you of our broader health and wellness resources available to the community. MHS was founded on the idea that students must be nurtured both inside and outside the classroom in order to thrive, which is why we continue to invest in supporting the whole child.
Starting in our classrooms and student homes, MHS teachers and houseparents take the lead in providing an extraordinary level of care to MHS students. Their daily support and encouragement is the foundation of the MHS experience, and our students continue to thrive because of them.
Additionally, MHS offers an array of mental health and social and emotional resources to our students, and our trained staff are here to provide support for those who may be struggling.
We have over 50 licensed clinical professionals on staff, including board-licensed clinical psychologists, school psychologists, licensed professional counselors, and social workers. These dedicated staff members provide individualized treatment and assessments for students, including crisis intervention, counseling and therapy, administration of medicine, and assistance to accomplish existing treatment goals.
MHS offers these services 24 hours a day from our Health Center and three on-campus clinics, all of which are ADA-compliant. When additional or specialized care is required, MHS coordinates closely with the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center to ensure students can receive the specific care and treatment that they need. We have also added new social and emotional learning trainings for staff and parents/sponsors, so together we can continue to build capacity in order to address our students’ full range of needs.
But we know that to meet the needs of our students, we must go beyond these direct services. The research is clear: a student who has vision trouble or faces barriers to accessing basic medical support like dental care will not be able to focus in the classroom. That is why in 2019-20 we provided 1,309 eyeglasses and 7,701 dental visits for those children who needed them. These are just a couple of the health and safety considerations we take very seriously, in addition to all of the newly implemented health and safety protocols we have implemented since March. While these types of services are often overlooked, at MHS we understand these issues have a direct impact on the ability of students to learn.
Beyond these medical resources, I want to remind you of our other exciting programming for students that supports the whole child, including art therapy courses, along with our outdoor sensory garden and calming corners implemented throughout classrooms and student homes. The garden and calming corners encourage students to explore their senses and understand how they can become calm through the use of sight, sound, smell, and touch.
We’ve been extremely proud of the strength that the MHS community has displayed these past several months, and we are extremely grateful for the opportunity to help such an amazing group of students continue to learn and grow while facing the challenges of the moment. We’re confident in our community’s resilience, and we strongly encourage parents/sponsors who have been struggling during the pandemic to reach out to a staff member to learn more about how our school’s health and wellness resources can assist them.
We’re all stronger, together.
Pete Gurt ’85