Jesse Goranson has a lot of people to thank.
During his time at the Masonic Children’s Home, alum Jesse met and was mentored by several individuals who he said helped shape the person he is today.
“I couldn’t have asked for better people to help me develop as a young man with interests and hobbies,” he said. “I’m so grateful for that experience and the opportunity to find out who I really am.”
Today, Jesse, 24, has a master’s degree in Community Psychology and Social Change from Penn State Harrisburg, in addition to a bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a minor in theater. He lives in Elizabethtown.
While figuring out his next steps, Jesse is currently working part-time as a production assistant in Penn State’s theater program.
“I do a lot of video work and work in theater,” he said. “My two passions are for the social sciences and the entertainment/performing arts. Right now, my plan is to stick around Penn State and eventually get a full-time job. If not, I’m looking into social work or working with Child Protective Services just because of how much they helped my life and set me on the course to be at the Masonic Children’s Home.”
Jesse grew up in Santa Clarita, California, and was in second grade when his parents divorced. In the sixth grade, his mother moved him, his brother and sister to Pennsylvania to be closer to family. Struggling with money and mental health issues, his mother didn’t feel she was fit to care for her children, Jesse said, so his sister was sent to the private Milton Hershey School and a social worker, Brenda Ryan Drawbaugh, eventually found a place for Jesse and his brother, Jacob, at the Masonic Children’s Home.
“I went for a weekend visit to feel how the space was [at the children’s home],” Jesse said. “I remember just being so at ease. It was nice not having to worry about adult issues as a child and just able to hang out with kids your own age. From that first weekend, I knew that Masonic Children’s Home would be a really nice time in my life.”
“The children’s home really gave me the space to explore myself as an individual,” he said. “John Tracey, one of the house parents, would lend me painting supplies and mentor me through different art projects. Scott Lauzon would share movies and old video games with me. Sean Gomes brought religion into my life, and we had lots of late-night discussions about different books in the Bible. It was such a great space facilitated by the house parents.”
Jesse also credits Donna Shaffer, education coordinator, with keeping his academics on track. “She has been nothing but a blessing in my life,” he said. “I can’t say enough good things about her.”
Jesse and Jacob were roommates at the Masonic Children’s Home and did everything together. Jacob is currently applying to be in the state police program in Pennsylvania.
Jesse, his sister, Brittnay, and his fiancé, Emily, are living in an apartment together. He met Emily through the theater program at Penn State.
Today, Jesse is on good terms with both of his parents and said things are “a lot brighter than what they used to be.”
“I credit the Masonic Children’s Home,” he said. “If it weren’t for them, I have no idea where I’d be. I don’t even want to imagine it. It would be a completely different world.
“I’m pretty happy with where I’m sitting.”