Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Resident Assistants (RA's) of Georgia Gwinnett College Jasmin Griffith, center, plays a card game called Apples to Apples with fellow RA's Kimberly Stokes, left, Raven Thompson, right, and Raven Johnson, (not pictured), in residents hall 1000 at GGC on Tuesday. The four girls combine for 5 years of RA experience.
LAWRENCEVILLE-- When college students shuffle back into the classroom next month, many still rusty from the summertime lull, there's someone with whom they can talk it out: their resident assistant.
Several young women at Georgia Gwinnett College said that as an RA, you may not always have all the answers for the 30-some odd students in your charge, but you can sure point them in the right direction.
And if nothing else, you can be a friend.
That's the approach that three students at the college have learned from Jasmin Griffith, 21, who they call a mentor in the RA realm.
"Everybody kind of knows you, and you know everyone," said Griffith, sitting down last week to talk about the duties of the position. "You have to take the job seriously, because you have people's lives in your hands."
Fellow RA Kimberly Stokes, 22, agreed.
"Whether they've recently transitioned into college or you're helping longtime students with a crisis, you're going to have situations," Stokes said. "There's all sorts of things you may encounter, so you have to learn how to be there and be friendly and assist them."
One of the ways that RAs assist their fellow students, said Raven Thompson, 19, is indeed through being a friend to those under their care.
"So many times you come across students who may feel alone, because for some it's their first time away from home, so they don't know anybody," Thompson said. "They don't know what to do. They don't know where to go. You are the person that says, 'Let me show you the way.'"
Raven Johnson, 21, said that sometimes all it takes is a little guidance.
"They need help sometimes in deciding what classes to take, deciding when to study versus when to hang out with friends," Johnson said. "You can always encourage them in a positive way."
Often encouragement comes through informal monthly or weekly meetings, according to all four young women.
Each RA typically is responsible for about 30 others, with whom they share a hallway or a wing of a dorm building.
Said Stokes: "You have about 30 people looking to you for all the answers, and you are the direct contact."
At the most basic level, Stokes said, the resident assistant is "a resource to the students. Our programs may help, but we know where to direct them."
Griffith, a sage RA for the young women, said she always aims to help students understand that "school is the number one priority. Especially if you're a first-year student coming straight from high school. You're on your own, and you don't have your parents and teachers behind you saying, 'Get this done.'"
Added Griffith: "We are here to help and to encourage, because college is a whole different world, and everybody needs help sometimes."