We are family ...
Meet houseparents, Craig & Dianna Cowan
For two decades, Craig & Dianna Cowan have helped students call Milton Hershey School® (MHS) "home." Many would say houseparenting is one of the most challenging jobs at MHS — not to mention one of the most rewarding.
Craig and Dianna Cowan have been a part of the MHS community for 23 years, offering guidance and support to literally dozens of boys and girls of all ages who have called the School "home." Currently, the Cowan's are houseparents to nine girls in grades 2-4. Here, in their own words, they talk about why they've devoted two decades to this unique career.
Why did you choose this career?
Craig: I started out as a dairyman at one of the School's farm homes. We covered the student home during the houseparents' vacations and every other weekend. We enjoyed spending time with the students and watching them get excited about learning new things. Helping community had always been a big thing in my family.
Dianna: I did not choose this career; I followed my husband's careers, which lead to becoming a houseparent. I always had the desire to become a teacher and, through houseparenting, I feel I have been given the opportunity to teach and touch the lives of children every day.
What is most gratifying about your job?
Craig: Watching students learn, grow, and mature into fine young adults. Some students go through some interesting changes.
Dianna: The unconditional love from your students. Watching the students walk across the stage on Graduation Day and knowing that you were given the opportunity to be a part of their life in some small way.
What are some of the challenges?
Craig: Our students have greater needs than they did even three to four years ago. Finding ways and time meet all their needs. I still try to give it all for every student.
Dianna: Time. Today's students are more challenged socially and academically, which requires more individual time per student.
What is your secret for successfully integrating students from diverse family and cultural backgrounds into a group living environment?
Dianna: We share with the sponsor that we are not here to take the place of a child's mother or father but we are here to love, care, guide, support, and challenge the child to succeed, and by working together we can and will accomplish just that.
A child does not just come into our student home they are invited into our family. Family is there to support you through the good and the bad times; you learn to respect each others' differences and take the opportunity to really get to know each other. It is very important that a child feels accepted and loved and we do that by treating one another as a family.
Craig: Teach family and pride in self and what you have to offer to the group.
You both are active in activities that support students outside of the student home — what are they and why do you do it?
Craig: I coach junior high soccer and ice hockey, and I am a Cub Scout leader. I enjoy the interaction with the students in a different setting. I tell them I am here to help make them a better person right now we are doing it through sports. I’m also involved with the Agricultural & Environmental Education Program, chaperone class trips, and work as a lifeguard and volunteer firefighter with Hershey Fire Department.
Dianna: I am involved with the Girl Scout program at all age levels with around 280 girls. I feel very passionate about how scouting can help a student to develop and experience new opportunities that they might not otherwise experience or take the initiative to try.