C.L.A.S.S. Advocate

C.L.A.S.S. is the acronym for Continuing the Legacy of African American Student Success. As live-in staff members, C.L.A.S.S. Advocates (CA) have the unique opportunity to enrich the experience of Black students by assisting them in achieving a sense of belonging and inclusion. This position mentors and supports the learning environment of Black students in their residential community with an emphasis on community building, interpersonal skills, social awareness and responsibility, and well-being.

Niyah Brown

C.L.A.S.S. advocate in Brumby Hall; Pharmaceutical science major with the African American Studies minor

I chose UGA mostly because I had the Zell Miller scholarship but also because I did a pharmacy summer program my junior year of high school and we got to stay in O-House for a week. It was for minority students. I was afraid that if I went to a PWI that I would be lost, that I would just be another number. And that I wouldn’t find a lot of people like me. But when I entered that program, I saw that there were actually people that looked like me; there are African American students here on campus and they were doing a lot of things that were very active on campus. And so that really kind of solidified my decision.  

When I was an RA, I saw that there was a need. All of my residents needed me, but specifically I had two black residents that were just constantly needing help and needing guidance on more than just what a typical RA’s job was. So I became an advocate for making sure that African American students have the resources to help them prosper at a PWI. 

My sophomore year as an RA, I had a I only had two black residents on my hall, and they were roommates—one of them was having a really hard time. I talked with her, and she was thinking about transferring because she went to a predominantly Black and Hispanic high school and this was kind of a culture shock for her. She was struggling to find people that looked like her, a community that looked like her, and she just felt alone. I told her, “OK, I understand if that’s something that you still want to do but before you make this decision, let me show you BUGA (Black UGA). Let me show you the resources you have.” I showed her around. I let her get connected to people, to people in BUGA, the communities and clubs that we have. And she’s prospering. She’s in several student organizations, and she’s doing so much better. 

It’s rewarding when I see black students helping out other black students. That’s what I love—the people that I’ve helped, seeing them help other people and continue that tradition. 

I love the CA group. We have a group chat and we’re always bringing in ideas or like hey, what if we do this? What if we do this that? We always—even if we have a program—we come to each others’ programs. Even if we can’t stay long will just visit show up so our faces just to show that support. So the support is really there with the CA team. 

If you’re going to work as a class advocate, make sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons and make sure that and know that your position is going to make a difference. It doesn’t matter if it’s one resident or a whole group of residents. Your position is important whether your residents know it or not. Your black residents need you because this is their first year. They don’t know everything, they don’t know how to get acclimated, and sometimes they’re just not going to ask for help. You may feel dumb in some areas where you’re sending emails and nobody is answering them. Or, you may do a program and nobody comes—but don’t lose that hope. And just know that even if you change one resident’s life, that’s going to change your whole outlook on the position and that’s going to put fire underneath you to continue with the position.