Story by Marcus Wilkins

Jalen Charles holds the door handle to his new residence hall room.
Jalen Charles moved into Bluford Hall during 2018 Move-In Day. Photo by Jill Fox

When Jalen Charles arrived from Chicago at Bluford Hall on Mizzou Move-In Day, he brought with him nearly as many relatives as he did items to unpack. Grandma Patricia Berry, aunt Tamkia Campbell-Berry, aunt Charlita Berry, cousin Imani Kuykendoll and mother Martissa Berry all made the trip from the Windy City to cheer on their academic all-star.

So, Charles knew to be gentle when asked in front of his close-knit family to name what he is most looking forward to about college.

“Um, being on my own,” said Charles, timidly glancing at his tearful but proud mother. “I mean, being independent.”

Moving into the brand new, five-story, 80,100-square-foot building was more celebration than chore for Charles. Escorted by resident assistants Ashley Morris and Becky Tebe, the new Tiger family pushed a luggage-filled roll cart into the elevator while admiring the amenities.

“College was nothing like this when I went,” said Charlita, who has degrees from Clark Atlanta University and Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. “I was an undergrad in the ’90s, and my room was tiny. This is awesome!”

As Charles plunked down a box on his new desk and took in the westerly view out of his room window, he was already daydreaming about two-minute walks to Memorial Stadium on football game days and lattes from the Starbucks on the first floor.

Ashley Morris holds her smartphone as Jalen Charles looks on.
Bluford Hall resident assistant Ashley Morris shows incoming freshman Jalen Charles how to change, online, the pin code to unlock his door. Photo by Jill Fox

“I’m not much of a coffee drinker, but I’m going to be,” Charles said.

“I bought him a gift card to kick start his caffeine addiction,” Charlita joked.

Charles lucked out in more ways than one with his third-floor single bedroom. The shower is right across the hallway, a TV lounge is next door and a group study room is around the corner. As a health sciences major who notched a 4.33 GPA at Simeon Career Academy, he hopes to make the most of the ideal living and learning space. His mother is confident he will.

“This is the first week I’ve ever said, Maybe I should have had more kids, ” said Martissa, smiling at her son. “But I think I’m good. This is a one and done.”

As Charles started to unpack his microwave, comforters and clothes, he was contemplating a Move-In Night itinerary that included First Roar — a kickoff event to teach new Tigers the school traditions — a floor meeting and a block party sponsored by the MU Residence Hall Association.

“I already have a lot to do, and I just got here,” Charles said. “I’m excited!”