If you’re a Merrowvista camper parent, you’ve probably had a conversation or two with Lisa Boucher. Boucher started at Merrowvista in 1996 as a receptionist, registrar, and camp store manager. Today, she remains registrar for Merrowvista, as well as Miniwanca and National Leadership Conference. Learn what Boucher loves most about working at camp – and why Merrowvista campers can thank her for the revival of a popular interest group.
What does a registrar do?
A registrar works with the camp directors to recruit and register campers. We answer various parent questions regarding program availability or any concerns they may have about their child attending camp. Registrars do all the billing and collection for camp. We update and send out handbooks, collect and process scholarship forms, follow-up forms, and medical forms to help the directors and the health team prepare for the campers’ arrival. Registrars make sure all the little details, including transportation, are in order so camp opening and closing days go as smoothly as possible!
What is your favorite part of your job?
I’ve always enjoyed talking with the camper parents. It’s nice to hear their voices and get to know them and their campers through them over the years. From my office, I get to see and hear flag raisings where campers talk about things they’ve learned at camp or on trail. I hear the laughter and happy sounds all around camp, especially the robust, joyous camp songs coming from the Eating Lodge after lunch.
You’ve worked with the AYF for nearly 25 years. How has the organization changed in that time? What has stayed the same?
The numbers have certainly changed over the years. In a typical year at Merrowvista, we now have about a third more campers and staff than we had when I first joined AYF. Camp used to be a bit more rustic. It was always beautiful, but over the years most of the buildings have been replaced or updated to be more sustainable.
In recent years – and especially now because of the pandemic – the three AYF sites, Merrowvista, Miniwanca, and St. Louis, have become closer, meeting on Zoom regularly and working more collaboratively as one team. It’s been great to get to know our colleagues better across the organization.
I think what’s stayed the same is the core principles of the AYF program and mission, the enthusiasm, care, and dedication of our staff and the support of the greater AYF family.
You were also a camper parent. How did the lessons your child learned at camp show up in her adult life?
Kelsey started camp as a Trailblazer at Merrowvista. At first, she was not entirely convinced about camp, but she returned for four more years. When faced with challenges, her village worked together to find solutions. The most difficult part of camp for her was saying goodbye to her village and leaders at the end of the session. She still stays in touch with many of her friends from camp. I believe Kelsey’s time at camp helped her become more aware of and compassionate about the issues facing people in the world today. Always advocating for social change, she is now a professor of social work at University of New Hampshire.
What’s one of your favorite camp memories?
My first summer at camp, I attended one of the closing ceremonies to see what it was like. I remember slowly walking along the A-field, and then through the woods toward the closing circle at dusk. Candles flickered, lighting the path as parents arrived and made their way to the circle. Everything was very still. No campers were in the circle yet, only a few staff. We all sat and waited quietly. Then in the distance you could hear voices singing. As the campers and leaders approached, the singing continued until all were seated. This, and the ceremony that followed, was one of the most beautiful and moving things I had ever experienced.
What are some of your favorite things to do outside of camp?
Seeing Kelsey and our granddaughter, Parker, whenever possible is always a treat. In the warmer months, I walk whenever I can, and on the weekends, I do quite a bit of kayaking, mostly on Lake Winnipesaukee. I make ceramic jewelry, so I usually have my hands in clay whenever I have a spare moment. In 2017 I started taking African drumming lessons, which has been an incredible learning experience for me, and I look forward to it every week. We play traditional West African songs with djembes, bells, and dununs.
What is a little-known fact about yourself?
When I first started at Merrowvista, I was asked to rekindle the pottery program. There was an old kiln down at arts and crafts that was sitting dormant for several years. I had never fired a kiln before, so I was a bit apprehensive. I proceeded to dust off the kiln, put it together, and I figured out how to use it. After experimenting making some pots and firing them in the kiln, I started training the summer staff how to teach basic hand-building and wheel techniques, and even had a chance to teach some of the campers. We now have a newer, larger kiln at Merrowvista, and pottery is still a popular interest group.
2020 was a difficult year for everyone, including the AYF. How did you cope with the challenges and changes the pandemic caused?
Meeting with AYF colleagues on a regular basis, checking in, and sharing how we’re doing has been really helpful. Now that people are getting vaccinated and spring is finally here, there seems to be some new hope on the horizon.
Where do you see the AYF in 50 years?
I have every confidence that AYF will continue to be in the good and capable hands of future leaders who are passionate about the mission of the organization and will continue to inspire and serve youth, helping them navigate the challenges of their times.