Robert Berentes starts his day like any other student here at Montclair State University. He wakes up, goes to class and goes through his day learning like the rest of people on campus. But he also carries a great amount of responsibility that many don’t see. He might start his day off like a student, but he ends his day as a hard working Resident Assistant (RA).
“I think people forget that we are students just like them. We are still people,” said Berentes. “There are times where I’ll have an 8:30 class the next morning and I’ll get a call at 5:30 in the morning and have to wake up because a student came in either inebriated, in need of medical assistance or was simply being too loud. So here I am, a student at 5:30 in the morning waking up and making sure that you are okay. Once that’s done, I have to come back and write up a report. Then I have to take the RA hat off and go to class.”
Becoming a RA was not a hard decision for Berentes. He had work experience and felt that he could use those skills in order to do a great job as a resdent assistant. After transferring from a community college and coming to Montclair State University, Berentes wanted to get involved in something that was going to make a lasting impression on campus. After talking with his own RA, he started the vigorous process of becoming a resident assistant himself.
Since becoming an RA, Berentes has made a lasting impression on all of his residents past and present. He enjoys making long-term friendships with them and he can tell that, by getting to know them, a bond of trust is formed.
“A lot of people only think of RAs in terms of their individual resident and then their experience with that RA, and it’s in the same respect as teachers are thought of: ‘Oh, teaching must be so easy, they only have to deal with 30 kids.’ But, in reality, they have to deal with 150 kids in nine other classes besides yours. We are not just restricted to our residents. RAs are not just handling one student with an issue, but two or three and so on.”
Berentes said that, despite the bad rap resident assistants get, he sticks to his job and handles everything calmly. By forming good relationships with his residents, he doesn’t have to play the role of the “hall police.”
There are many things that RAs do that residents do not see or think about. They are up until 1 a.m. putting door tags on residents’ doors and decorating bulletin boards. Then there is also the more life-changing things that they do as well. They are the first ones on the scene when a life or death situation is unfolding, and they talk to residents who need serious counseling. Berentes believes that an RA has to have a lot of people skills to truly be good at the job.
“I think patience [is] something an RA has to have,” said Berentes. “You are going to encounter a lot of situations, big and small, that require you to take a step back and be patient with residents, staff [and] supervisors. A good RA has a good sense of compassion.”
Aside from all his resident assistant responsibilities, Berentes also finds time to organize the 909 committee whose goals are educating residents about serious problems that could happen when partying and trying to feed residents before they go out. He is the president of the committee and works with other campus partners to educate residents as much as possible. He also mentors new resident assistants and trains them for the job.
“I was super lucky to have Rob as my mentor,” said Emily Louka, Berentes’ protégé. “He was probably the most helpful tool I had in getting into the RA roll. All the RAs are brilliant at what they do, but he stands out. He’s a true leader, and he knows what he’s doing. He will always come to help you if you need it, even if it’s difficult for him to do so.”
Being an RA takes its toll on a person, but if they weren’t here there would be a lot of problems. Berentes is proof that resident assistants truly are unsung heroes.