The Secret Life of the RA

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It’s freshman year at 2 a.m. and a group of people is standing right outside laughing and yelling. The RA leaves his or her room and tells the group to quiet down since people are sleeping. A woman is wearing a skirt that doesn’t reach her knees. The RA tells her to change. Basically a summary of a resident assistant’s job, right? Think again. Resident Assistants across campus are responsible for enforcing the Honor Code, but their jobs encompasses a lot more than rules.

Tracy Larson, a junior from Placentia, Calif., majoring in family and consumer sciences education, is in her second year as an RA in Helaman Halls.

“Freshmen think RAs are only there to enforce rules,” she said. “But really we’re not looking at reasons to get mad at them.”

RAs are responsible for helping ease the transition between high school and college for students and helping students become aware of campus resources. In addition, they plan monthly activities, or “programs” catered to the residents’ needs. They hold weekly meetings with the intent of fostering discussion and critical thinking. Finally, RAs are trained in helping residents with personal problems including suicide and eating disorders.

Such responsibility could be overwhelming, but, according to Larson, RAs have support from others.

“There’s a built-in social network,” she said. “Everyone understands each other. Management is great, they understand and aren’t just a boss.”

Tyler Lindsay, a business management major from Bakersfield, Calif., who is living in Helaman Halls, decided to be an RA for the first time this year.

“I went home for the summer to Bakersfield and I couldn’t find a job,” he said. The free housing and free food RAs get attracted him to the job.

Lindsay, who did not live in on-campus housing his freshman year, was unfamiliar with the RA position until he began training for the job in mid-August.

“I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I’m glad I got into it,” he said. “I was really expecting to be an authority figure and what surprised me most was BYU’s RA program. BYU really cares about the well-being of its freshmen.”

Because Lindsay lives with freshmen and attends a freshman ward, some may think he would be without a social life.

“My social life is different, but it’s still good,” he said. “I hang out with the other RAs, especially in my building.”

Kazhia Mellor, a biological education major from Mesa, Ariz., said she also enjoys her social life as an RA.

“It’s a misconception that you’re never going to meet anyone and that freshman wards are terrible,” she said. “RAs are really similar to each other — like their personalities are similar and so we like to do a lot of things together.”

Mellor was surprised when she had time for life outside of her job.

“What surprised me most was that RAs have their own life still,” she said. “I thought the job was going to take over my life, but I still had time for myself, school and my friends.”

Mellor, a second year RA living in Helaman Halls, has found the job to be rewarding.

“My favorite part about the job is being able to help my girls,” she said. “Seeing the difference I make in their lives and seeing them grow. Housing and food are physical perks, but real perks are learning to communicate and awesome leadership skills that we can use the rest of our lives.”

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