LCN Article
From Living Education: The Role of a Resident Assistant

March / April 2024

At Living Education–Charlotte, some students are given the exciting opportunity to continue with the program for an extra year. These Student Leaders attend a new set of classes, are given more time to contribute to God’s work, and, in some cases, serve as Resident Assistants for the Living Education dormitories, helping first-year students acclimate to the LE environment. Serving as a Resident Assistant comes with its own unique challenges, rewards, and opportunities, so we caught up with four recent RAs to ask them to relate some of the most memorable aspects of the experience.

Challenges and Rewards

The role of a Resident Assistant holds many opportunities to stretch oneself. Chris Pringle, the men’s RA for the 2021–2022 academic year, was struck by the diverse interests of students, which he found challenging to keep up with. “One of the hard things,” he said, “and I suppose parents face this, too, is when the interests that they have are interests that you don’t understand. How do you know the best way to help them manage those interests? That became a little bit of a challenge for me at times.”

Despite—or because of—the challenges, the role of an RA for Living Education–Charlotte is filled with rewards. Chris found joy in watching students grow and prepare for future life stages. “On day one,” he said, “you have a bunch of those who come in with no real-life experience, but you can see their wisdom grow through the program. Getting to watch that process for a number of the boys was really gratifying. I remember how much Living University helped me as a person, so, getting to either be a part of that or just watch the program work in their lives was really special.”

Yolanda Watt, the RA for the women’s dorm at that time, found herself managing responsibilities like shopping for supplies and groceries, which wasn’t easy amidst rising gas prices. “That was a bit challenging at first,” she said, “driving around, getting either groceries for the Friday-Night Dinners or dorm supplies, managing the best time to get what I needed and make sure that I didn’t use all the gas that I had in my car.”

Particularly satisfying to Yolanda was her role as a counselor and confidant. “It was gratifying to be like a ‘Dorm Mom,’ if you want to call it that,” she said, sharing that she enjoyed “just being able to know that if the girls had any problems, they would be willing to come to me and we could try to work things out, try to figure out the best methods and make sure everyone gets along. I felt like that was great.” 

Nathan Kroon, last year’s RA for the men’s dorm, spoke about the unexpected disconnect between Student Leaders and first-year students due to different class schedules. “Because you’re not in the same classes as them, you might not know everything that’s going on with them,” he said. “That sometimes made it a little difficult to understand what actions you might need to be taking at that point.” Nathan found joy in serving, especially in regard to organizing activities. “I enjoyed serving in whatever way I could,” he said, highlighting a service project that the LE students accomplished for a local widow in the Charlotte congregation. “The student leaders organized that,” he said, “and then we all got the other students involved in helping. That was very rewarding—just helping to put together something that helps another person.”

Ellie McNair, who served as the RA for the women’s dorm last year, concurred with Nathan as she pointed out the challenge of managing expectations due to the different experiences of first- and second-year students. “The disconnect between the two years is quite wide,” she said. “You’ve gone through a lot of things that previous year—you’ve seen the whole picture the year paints, and your job is to communicate that through your actions. The first-year students haven’t gone through all the same experiences, yet you subconsciously expect them to have gone through them already. So, you have to keep that little bit of disconnect in mind. These people are learning lessons, and you need to put yourself in their shoes of where they are in the year and what they’ve done.”

To Ellie, it was rewarding to foster sisterly bonds among those in her dorm. “It was really neat to be able to try to set a tone within the girls’ dorm itself,” she said. “I think it makes a difference if you take the time once a week to make sure the girls do an activity together, or hang out, or watch a movie together. The guys didn’t necessarily have to be part of the group for everybody to get along really well—the girls wanted to spend time together with other girls, and I really did find it nice.”

Imparting True Values

Resident Assistants are an integral part of instilling and developing godly values in the students of Living Education–Charlotte. Chris emphasized the importance of learning to live in harmony with others. “There are times when we don’t agree,” he said, adding that “we don’t see eye to eye about certain things, but we have to have grace for each other, and we have to be patient with each other, because we’re all in different places.” He also reflected on how these experiences help young adults to prepare for future life stages, like marriage. “We think that we can just go from being single our whole lives to being married and carrying a household, and it’s going to work automatically,” he said. “That’s naive. I have a friend who has said on multiple occasions that one of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for marriage is to have roommates, because that’s how you learn how to live with another personality, with people who do things in a very different way.”

Yolanda accentuated the value of being fair and understanding in chore distribution. “I had a list of chores that we needed to get done,” she said, “and I would rotate each of the ladies each week on the chores, and I try to make sure I scheduled in a way that one person didn’t feel like she was doing way more than the other. If I ever felt like that was going to be a case, I would assign a little bit more to myself so that the rest of them didn’t feel that way.” As the “Dorm Mom,” Yolanda also strove to ensure harmony in problem-solving and emphasized the importance of understanding both sides of any issue. “I tried to be fair if there were any issues, and to listen to any complaints,” she said. “There weren’t really a whole lot, thankfully. But if I did have any complaints, I tried to listen and hear both sides of the story before casting any judgment. I might not be perfect at it, but I tried to be fair to everyone.”

Nathan pointed out the need to understand LE’s rules and structures. “At the beginning of the year,” he said, “we would explain to the first-year students the rules that we had set in place—and some of them might not have sounded agreeable at first, to some people. But Mr. McNair explained that we have a very specific and organized way of doing things, and there’s a reason that we do everything the way we do.” The RAs made a concentrated effort to communicate this to the students. “When someone would be like, Why do we do that?,” Nathan explained, “Mr. McNair didn’t want us to be like, Yeah, I know it’s kind of silly, but we do it anyway. We wanted to make sure we knew why the rules were important, and we wanted to present each one as equally important—not blindly following, but understanding the importance of the rules that are in place.”

Ellie also highlighted the crucial nature of personalizing service and encouraging creativity, especially in organizing events like the Friday-Night Dinner. “I really wanted to encourage them to use their creativity and come up with out-of-the-box ideas for what they were going to do for their Friday-Night Dinner, because it’s such a unique opportunity,” she said. “I tried to encourage them to try their best but make it creative—something that you would want to serve to others. If it’s not perfect, it’s okay, but you wholeheartedly know you did your best instead of just doing whatever you know works—it was what you wanted to do, as well.”

This approach helps in developing a mindset of service that is both enjoyable and personal. “It changes your mindset of service,” Ellie said. “You really need to start personalizing it as early as you can, so that it isn’t something where you feel you have to do it in the way you saw someone else do it.” Ellie related that a simple change of mindset can make service not only more enjoyable, but more beneficial for those served. “You can make it about others,” she said, “but with a flavor that helps them get to know you through your service. That was a value I wanted to communicate; if you try to serve without a flavor of your own, you think it’s really hard, because you can’t do exactly what another person did—yet you can do what you can do. And that is generally what people want anyway.”

Fulfilling the role of a Resident Assistant is no easy task—but it is a rewarding one, and it’s an invaluable contribution to what makes Living Education–Charlotte a lasting positive influence in the lives of its students. So, be sure to say a prayer or two for the courageous “Dorm Moms” and “Dorm Dads” who sacrifice so much for the young adults attending LE—and, if you’re a young adult planning to make LE a part of your life, consider the possibility of becoming an RA yourself!

—Editorial Staff