It’s 2 a.m. and Jessica Pierre, a junior health care management student from West Palm Beach, Fla., responds to a knock on her door.
One of her residents wants to know if she has ketchup she can use for a hot dog. Being that it’s her second year as a resident assistant in Paddyfoote, this isn’t anything out of the ordinary. It’s just another day as an RA at Florida A&M University.
To most people, RAs are viewed as just the authoritarians of dormitories. The truth is, the titles resident assistants hold are limitless. To their residents, they are viewed as counselors, friends, tour guides and even psychiatrists.
Rose Jean, a senior psychology student from West Palm Beach, Fla., has worked as an RA since her sophomore year at FAMU, and has seen it all.
“As RAs, we deal with so much,” Jean said. “From underage drinking incidents to even pregnancy confessions. Not much is off limits when it comes to our residents.”
RAs are trained for every situation imaginable, like dealing with fires and mini drug bust operations. However, training is always different from reality.
For most women, knowing which hat to use to get the job done is the hardest.
“These students aren’t just our residents,” said Pierre. “They are our peers and sometimes even our friends.”
Since becoming an RA this is the part of the job that Rose Jean has struggled with the most.
“It makes things awkward when you take off the friendship hat and become the enforcer,” Jean said. “But I have to do it because it’s my job.”
Being an RA can be stressful and some quit after just one semester.
“I’ve always enjoyed my RA,” said Natalie Johnson, a junior elementary education student from Jacksonville, Fla. “They honestly have one of the hardest jobs, and yet, they continue to keep a smile on their faces no matter how they’re doing.”
As part of their contracts, RAs are obligated to create four programs a semester for their residents. They are expected to work on holidays, including Thanksgiving and during Spring Break. They are expected to work two weeks before resident halls open and required to stay several days after they close.
It is not a job for the weak or easily frustrated. As an RA, one must be able to manage time wisely and unordinary situations promptly and responsibly. However, RAs who can handle it never regret their decision.
“I love helping people,” Jean said. “Being able to touch people’s lives with my work is what I enjoy the most.”