RAs face questions as Charlottesville rebuilds

Any effort is a good effort, any comfort is a good comfort

lf17-MadelineSeymour

“Maddie, we can hear some kind of animal in our AC unit. Can you come here?”

As a resident advisor, my days are always busy. When I’m not attending classes or working on graduate school applications, I’m answering “emergency” text messages at midnight from first- years about animals that are trapped in their air conditioning unit. Spoiler alert — it was a piece of plastic, not an animal. Now, I won’t deny — that is my favorite story to tell fellow RAs and at parties. Not only is it comedic, but it was the first time my residents relied on me to solve a problem for them.

“I’ll be right there,” I texted back and crawled out of bed.

This job is one of the most satisfying things I have ever done, despite the midnight texts, around-the-clock hours and fishbowl environment. And since the air-conditioning-animal fiasco, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to serve my first-years, and it has become wildly second-nature.

Still, this is a hard time to be a resident advisor at our University, considering everything that has happened in Charlottesville — the violent protests Aug. 11 and 12 and the national attention our city has faced as a result, not even to mention the mass shooting threat that occurred only three weeks ago. It’s hard listening to a young kid — under your wing — mutter things like, “why here?”

While all RAs are required to undergo extensive training, from Aug. 5 to 15, with an average 14-hour-days, nothing really prepared me to comfort residents in the aftermath of that nationwide nightmare. I was taught how to comfort residents when they fail a test or experience heart-wrenching breakups or the like, but not how to comfort a parent when they ask, “Is my baby safe in this town?”

Instead of questions about where buildings were or how to use buses, my residents asked about where the protests took place, if they were going to return and what the protocol was if they did come back. All good questions, but not ones with easy answers.

Yes, it is a difficult time to be an RA, but it is also a crucial time. When those people gutted our city, I was powerless. All I could do was watch from afar. For weeks, I searched for meaningful ways I could give back to our community — help Charlottesville and U.Va. rebuild and revive — and, for the longest time, I came up empty. Until now.

In this day-in-age, deadly protests, threats of massacre and the actions of our current leaders are a disturbing reality. Being an RA, I have the great responsibility of providing comfort to residents, especially when they demonstrate concern about the trajectory of our world. Because these first-years — U.Va. students and new citizens of Charlottesville — deserve security.  

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