Inside the heart and mind of your freshman RA

RA holding a sign explaining why she became an RA. (Matt Reynolds/JSU)RA holding a sign explaining why she became an RA. (Matt Reynolds/JSU)

Matt Reed, Special to the Chanticleer

Moving to college can be a terrifying thing for freshmen. In a transition from years under the roof of parents to being totally alone in a new environment, nothing is certain except the uncertainty of what comes next. With nowhere to look except towards the staircase leading up to a busy Crow or Fitzpatrick Hall on move-in day, the possibilities of what comes next are truly endless. Who will be there to help? Who has been through this before and knows the ins and outs of the freshman experience? The answer lies no further than a freshman Resident Assistant (RA). 

Serving as the foot soldiers of JSU Housing and the advocates for enriched residence life, RAs work night and day to craft a warm, welcoming environment for freshmen on campus. Residing in every residence hall, RAs are tasked with the duty of developing a community among residents and inspiring positive mindsets during the transition from high school to college. With extensive training in conflict management, emergency response and guidance towards involvement, residents will always have a friendly face to turn to. Whether it be in need of assistance or just a receptive soul to vent to, there is always an open spot in the life and mind of a JSU RA. 

Why are RAs in freshmen halls so important? What is expected of a freshman RA in comparison to one in perhaps a strictly upper class area? The key is a heart for genuine situational understanding and a desire for the resident’s success. 

“For most people, this is their first time moving away from home and truly be adults,” said Keyana Robinson, a veteran RA serving in Logan Hall. “So I think to have someone who is quite literally there for you is extremely comforting. The love for residents and the understanding of the ability to make a lasting impact in lives drives RAs to a high standard of service in building a welcoming community in which residents can thrive. 

The duty to act as a role model for first-year residents plays a crucial role in the overall nature of the environment that RAs work to build and sustain. 

“The most impactful thing for an RA to do is to be a good listener and mentor,” said Joe Allen, a Crow Hall RA. “Not because that’s necessarily our job every day, but because it can really change a residents day.” 

When the bad days come, and eventually one or two will, the availability of RAs to help comfort that stress acts as an outlet for decompressing the strain. 

“We can be that listening ear,” said Allen, and sometimes a listening ear will do just the trick. 

In addition to JSU RA’s open arms and refreshing sense of home, a primary goal of all RAs on campus is health and safety. As residents settle in and begin to make JSU home, it is imperative that the developing community stays safe. With summer training from JSU Housing, University Police, Calhoun County EMS, Jacksonville Fire Department, Alabama Harm Reduction Coalition and JSU Counseling Services, RAs are equipped with the knowledge and skills to identify hazards in both the community and individuals. 

“Many people don’t realize that an RA’s job is to make sure residents are safe, happy and healthy,” said Giovanna Hernandez, a Fitzpatrick Hall RA. “It’s great to know that you always have someone there to go to, all the time. As safety ranks first in the priorities of building a positive environment for resident and RAs, working together to stay aware of potential hazards is the best way of ensuring a healthy community.”

As a mentor, advocate and friend, RAs simply serve to inspire success. Whether it be a short pick-me-up conversation about a hard math test or a desire to further oneself in involvement and influence, RAs have the resources to help. So go ask that question that has been floating around; go mention that concerning situation, because one inquiry from the resident can quickly become a solution for the community. Most importantly, the next time an RA asks how you are doing, know that they really do care.

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