With student move-in days for the fall semester just a week away, 100 student and professional staffers with MTSU Housing and Residential Life began preparing for the coming wave by doing something they’ll get plenty of opportunities to do in the coming weeks and months — helping others.
Resident Assistants, or RAs, and Learning Community Advisers, or LCAs, could be found throughout the city on the morning of Aug. 17, pitching in at three local nonprofit organizations — The Salvation Army on West Main Street, Special Kids on East Main and the Meals on Wheels program based at St. Clair Street — as part of a community service day.
“Our whole job is to help others,” said senior Maggie Henris, housing director for House No. 4 on Greek Row, who teamed up with Area Coordinator Amber Gray in cleaning windows and glass doors outside the Salvation Army.
“It’s a great feeling to give back to the community,” said Henris, an advertising major. “They give MTSU so much. It feels great to give them something.”
According to Heidi Convery, MTSU assistant director of housing and residential iife, the student and professional staffers go through an intensive two-week training each August to prepare them for the estimated 3,000 students who’ll be moving onto campus.
In addition to the community service day, the training also includes skits, themed attire and “a huge spirit trophy” awarded to the staffer who displays the most zeal during the training period.
“The students are learning information for their positions, but we also work on developing them personally, which is why we include activities like our community service day,” Convery said. “The ‘True Blue’ pillars are very important to housing and residential life, and we believe that ‘engaging in the community’ is vital to a well-rounded student leader at MTSU.”
The “I am True Blue” pledge is an affirmation of the best ideals shared by the Blue Raider community and includes four core values: honesty and integrity; respect for diversity; engagement in the community; and a commitment to reason, not violence.
The morning’s help was greatly appreciated, said Lt. Monica Seiler of the Salvation Army.
“It means a lot for the Salvation Army. We depend heavily on help and support from the community, so it’s a great help to us,” Seiler said. “We don’t have a lot of money to do a lot of things, nor do we have a lot of manpower. What they’re able to do in a couple of hours takes us several days to do.”
Inside the Salvation Army, Womack Hall RA Mike Smith, 38, took a quick break from mopping floors to reflect on how his participation will better prepare him for his stint as a residence-hall assistant.
“It benefits me to know that I can give back to somebody else who might be a little less fortunate,” said the junior Concrete Industry Management major, who’s working as a second-time RA in hopes of building his leadership skills.
As an RA, Smith said he also appreciates the opportunity to help those incoming young students who are “fresh from the house, fresh out of high school, helping them transition into a new environment and just being there if they need something.”
In another part of the facility, India Knowles, a junior criminal-justice administration major and first-year RA, joined several of her colleagues in separating donated school supplies that the Salvation Army provides for students in need throughout the year.
“Someone always needs help,” Knowles said. “It’s better to give service to others … and as an RA, that’s what we do.”
Students will be moving into campus residence halls on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 24-25. Fall semester officially begins Saturday, Aug. 25, when all Saturday classes meet for the first time; weekday classes kick off Monday, Aug. 27.
— Jimmy Hart (Jimmy.Hart@mtsu.edu)