By Lauren Khine, Summer Times Staff Writer
Everyone has a story, though not all choose to tell it. People often disregard this candid, albeit cliched, aphorism. Assumptions are made, actions are ignored, and the behind-the-scenes work goes unacknowledged. People who are of minute significance to one person have just as complex of a life as that one person. So, while it’s impossible to understand everyone’s lives, it’s good practice to at least try.
The Exeter Summer staff is incredibly hard-working and caring. Many employees work at Exeter year-round, and have been working for years, with some even working for decades. Others are just here for the summer, helping with the five weeks of summer school. Despite their differences, staff members have one thing in common: all of them have stories and experiences.
Exeter’s dining service staff serves more than a thousand students during the regular academic session, and about seven hundred and fifty in the summer every day of the week, three times a day. They are constantly under-appreciated, despite taking on responsibilities most students or faculty are unaware of. Even more so, individual employees working in dining services have stories and experiences that are majorly unheard.
Bertha Cassatt, a food service worker, has been working at Exeter for sixteen years as of this November. She is from Salem, MA, moving to New Hampshire in 1971 at nine years old. Her job entails setting up the salad bar and general food stations, keeping lines for food civil, and ensuring temperature levels in the dining hall are comfortable, something some students do not know about.
“I wasn’t aware that food service workers had as many responsibilities,” a student, Lukas Mogharrab, said. “They do a lot.”
Ms. Cassatt is wonderfully friendly and helpful, saying her best experience at Exeter is ongoing. “We meet so many different cultures,” she said. “I love making people happy and ensuring they get what they need.”
After Ms. Cassatt had partially cleaned a waffle maker in the dining hall, a student asked to make a waffle. Ms. Cassatt said yes without hesitation, and even offered tips on making a good one. She later saw a woman struggling to fork out oatmeal, and immediately offered to grab a ladle to help. Ms. Cassatt is also noted that “everyone is stressed, especially being in a different environment.” Her care does not go unnoticed.
“I feel like there’s a lot of options for dietary restrictions,” Mia Penfold, a student, said. “For example, they have vegan butter, and if they don’t have it out, I can always ask for it.” She notes a lack of appreciation for dining services by students. “Perhaps in the rush of things, people forget to be thankful for what we have.” Mia adds she hopes Exeter students become more aware of what staff like the dining services staff do, believing it will make experiences on both ends more pleasant.
When she retires, Ms. Cassatt would like to start her own business for beaded clothing, building on her personal hobby for beading and crocheting. “I want to keep myself busy,” she said. Ms. Cassatt also loves animals and riding horses whenever she can.
Dinner tables left with spilled drinks and dirty napkins are cleaned by breakfast, and the waffle maker broken every morning is fixed almost immediately thanks to the dining staff. Temperatures are regulated during student dining times, and drinks or foods are fetched at customer requests. The Wetherell Dining Hall may look pristine and clean, but it’s apparent that the work unseen by visitors is most integral to its appearance.
Not only does the dining staff at Exeter play an essential part in making sure Exeter runs smoothly, but all employees, especially custodial services, have huge roles, too. While largely taken for granted by students, Exeter employees work long hours and do so much for the community. Unfortunately, their individual stories sometimes go unheard by students, prompting ignorance and even rudeness. Staff will talk; all students have to do is listen.
“Even if as students, we don’t make much of an effort, [the staff] is there behind us, always picking up after us,” Mia said. “I appreciate that, and I definitely think that we could do more to help them.”