Scott Sellers’ raspy, guttural laugh is hearty.
The Kenai Peninsula College, Kenai River Campus resident assistant, or RA, said he likes people to see him smile, which is part of his approach, on and off the job, to show the people around him they are welcomed, he said.
In his first year as an RA, Sellers has been invited to attend STARS College, a selective three-day training series for undergraduate students, held at American University in Washington, D.C.
Aboout 40 to 55 students from around the world are chosen to attend, according to the Association of College and University Housing Officers International, ACHUHO-I, website, which hosts the annual conference.
“You have to demonstrate a strong leadership and prove you will enhance the program, and will bring back what you learned from STARS,” said Tammie Willis, Associate Director of Residence Life.
Willis said she has seen only one other RA accepted into STARS College during her 15 years working in residence life at the college.
“Scott doesn’t just come up with ideas but does the work to make sure it happens,” Willis said.
Sellers said his approach to the RA position has come quite naturally, although it wasn’t something he had thought to pursue when he started college.
He described himself as the guy who will invite himself to pull up a chair with a group of strangers, or leave his apartment door open regardless of whether he is on- or off-duty.
“Scott is our best tour guide,” said Residence Life Coordinator, Leslie Byrd.
He is humble and flexible and he has no problem asking for guidance, she said.
Earlier this year, Sellers said he noticed that some students living in the residence hall were moving in with nothing and were only able to afford classes and rent.
After speaking with local grocery stores, he was able to get extra for students who were going without. He said Save-U-More on Kalifornsky Beach Road, now offers to make donations.
“I have been hungry before,” Sellers said. “I can’t imagine the stress of trying to cram for finals and worrying about where your next meal’s going to come from.”
Then, he took it a step further. Sellers said he noticed the students who requested the extra food packages had no way to make the food into a meal. He went to Willis who told him to come up with a proposal so she could find funding for his project. He came back with a plan to create basic kitchen sets for students to rent temporarily.
The system operates under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, which ensure complete anonymity for anyone taking the supplies, Sellers said.
“If Scott was not part of the staff, we would probably still be struggling to come up with a way … to address those issues,” Willis said.
As an RA, Sellers has helped organize barbecues, a Super Bowl viewing party and a Thanksgiving dinner for more than 35 students.
Willis and Byrd have become his unofficial mentors, Sellers said. Willis developed an approach to residence life leadership called Learning Outcome-Based Residence Education, or L.O.R.E.
Working under their direction Sellers said he has learned not to take a cookie cutter approach to working with a diverse group of people.
Sellers said hopes be an RA for the duration of his education. He will soon graduate from KPC with degrees in history and in anthropology, and plans to get his masters so he can eventually become a professor, where, he said, ideally he could continue working in residence life as a housing coordinator.
Sellers hopes training at STARS College will help him develop further skills he could use to pinpoint less noticeable issues, such as depression, or recognizing students who are struggling with academics, and how better to address them.
“I guess I am pretty proud of it,” he said.
Kelly Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.