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Waiters & Camp Aides
As boys progress through their Pemi journey, the opportunities for new adventures and leadership increase. In addition to many other exciting trips and events, our oldest campers take on two roles that provide them with valuable experiences while serving a vital role for camp: working as waiters and camp aides.
Waiters are assigned to a specific cabin table for the duration of the summer, and it’s their job to set up before meals; bring out food, drinks, and refills throughout the meal; and clean up the table and the Mess Hall after each one. Given the real responsibilities of the job, waiters are paid for their efforts. In fact for many Pemi alumni, working as a waiter was their first ever paid job! 13-year-olds, along with some older 12-year-olds, can work as sub-waiters (substitutes when waiters are away on trips), while our 14- and 15-year-olds have the chance to be full time waiters. These roles not only allow camp to function on a thrice-daily basis, but also provide the waiters with the chance to get to know and mentor campers of all ages. During the meal, the waiter gets the chance to talk with the younger boys, befriending campers whom they might otherwise not have extended interactions with. By being at the same table all summer, the waiters get to know the boys in that particular cabin especially well, along with the counselor. Cabin groups eat together at their cabin table for the first week of each session and at the end of each, too. This means that the waiter has dozens of meals with these younger campers and can help them adjust to camp and navigate the experience, all while sharing in their triumphs and providing a seasoned ear when needed.
By taking on this responsibility, older campers provide a major boon to Pemi, learn valuable lessons, deepen their camaraderie with each other, and have a blast in the process. Given that they’re up and moving around the Mess Hall throughout meals, while the rest of us are seated at our tables for the duration, waiters are highly visible to younger boys and staff alike. They model responsibility, help counselors maintain expectations around table manners, spark conversation with shy or quiet campers, and ensure cleanliness and smooth functioning in the Mess Hall. Waiters also gain experience in serving others, interacting with our back-of-house staff members in the kitchen (who often return to Pemi summer after summer in large part due to the mentorship they get to provide to waiters), and in upholding the standards of the community. Above all, however, being a waiter, like all else at Pemi, is just a lot of fun! Waiters have special events throughout the summer in appreciation of their work, not to mention they get extra dessert on a regular basis! Older campers tend to cherish the leadership role, the chance to inspire younger boys, and the bonds that are forged with peers through the shared experience. When the chance to sign up to be a waiter rolls around late each spring, the overwhelming majority of 14- and 15-year-olds volunteer to take on this job. Being a waiter provides a chance to lead, serve, and grow that Pemi campers love!
If being a waiter gives campers the chance to lead from the front in a highly visible capacity, the camp aide experience offers almost the total opposite. Boys serve camp – and, like waiters, receive a paycheck for their efforts – in a largely unseen way, but the impact is every bit as valuable. Camp aides work with a staff member in a specific program area or part of camp to help keep our space pristine and operating at its best. This can take a number of different forms:
- Ball chore helps ensure that all sports equipment is picked up around camp
- The health center camp aide supports the nurses
- Lodge crew sets up and breaks down chairs for all-camp gatherings and delivers laundry
- The mail camp aide sorts mail, ensuring everyone gets their letters
- Recycling camp aides help campers sort their recycling during inspection cleanup
These are just a few of the 15-20 positions boys take on each summer. By working closely with a staff member for several weeks, campers gain an additional mentor who helps them develop habits around accountability and self-motivation.
Camp aides typically complete their tasks during inspection cleanup, rest hour, or in the evenings, meaning that other campers aren’t around to see their work. Instead, the evidence of their efforts comes in the form of their peers showing up to freshly swept tennis courts each morning, properly sorted mail, or a boat house where all the lifejackets are hung up and arranged by size. Younger campers may not fully recognize the work that has gone into making this happen, but the counselors and staff know and deeply appreciate what these boys do for Pemi. We know how lucky we are to spend our summers in such a beautiful physical setting, and camp aides play a crucial role in maintaining that all summer long.
Campers often sign up to be camp aides exactly because they’ve also come to love and respect the high expectations we uphold at Pemi, and they want to quietly play their part in making that happen. The 14-year-old boy who puts in the extra effort to sweep all the way into the corners of the Nature Lodge, even when no one is watching, has learned a valuable life lesson and has demonstrated a genuine care for his community. By assuming these often unseen and thankless responsibilities, our oldest campers exemplify their love for Pemi and for others that we hope all our boys develop in their time with us.
Yet another benefit that pays off down the road? When it comes time for a camper who has been a waiter or camp aide to ask a Pemi director or staff member to write a letter of recommendation for high school or college, or to serve as a reference for a job or other adventure, we will be able to write specifically about his attention to detail, time-management skills, dependability, perseverance, ability to interact with others, and more—all qualities that schools, employers, and leaders are looking for.
Our waiters and camp aides know that Pemi is at its best when we live up to our ideals of citizenship and community responsibility and they make that happen through their efforts – all while having a blast in the process.