Safe, welcoming environment at Jackson State University helps put new incoming students at ease

(JACKSON, Miss.) — Jackson State University’s Move-in Day 2021 for incoming freshmen, specifically, was thrilling, but it came with an assortment of emotions. Some students expressed a fear of leaving their homes to take on an independent lifestyle, but they remain upbeat.

Keola McGregory, 18, of Atlanta, Georgia, is a criminal justice major with a minor in finance. She said she was slightly nervous about leaving her family but is more at ease after getting great support from the JSU staff. (Photo by William H. Kelly III/JSU)

Saturday, Aug. 14, was a big day for freshmen and transfer students who would become the newest residents of JSU. Staff members of JSU’s Department of Housing and Residence Life prepared themselves by staggering move-in times – by building and by floor — to maintain safety protocols. The times were emailed to students far in advance.

The housing department said it wanted to do everything to promote a safe environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. And, while implementing preventive actions eased some tensions, leaving home to start college life for some students was a different matter altogether.

Joreyn Patterson, 18, of O’Fallon, Illinois, is a freshman political science major who ultimately wants to become a criminal defense attorney. Because she’s an incoming JSU Honors College student, she was allowed to move into Stewart Hall a day earlier on Friday. She acknowledged that becoming independent is “a little scary” for someone who describes herself “more of an introvert.” However, she said she expects college life to give her confidence in becoming more expressive.

Joreyn Patterson, 18, of O’Fallon, Illinois, is a freshman political science major. She had strong support from her family as she moved into Stewart Hall. (Photos by William H. Kelly III/JSU)

Patterson’s mother, Tameeka Purchase of O’Fallon, Illinois, expressed excitement for her daughter because Patterson “always wanted to have the HBCU experience.” Purchase, a lawyer and judge, said she’s happy with her daughter’s decision to attend JSU. One of Purchase’s former law partners attended JSU, which is how daughter Patterson learned about the urban HBCU.

“I’m proud of her and excited for her,” Purchase said of her daughter. Even in this COVID-19 climate, Purchase said she’s optimistic about her daughter attending classes in person during this pandemic. Mother and daughter have been fully vaccinated.

“I feel the university has done so many things to make us feel comfortable – making sure we’ve had our vaccinations by going through the process with the Health Center first. I’m glad that the young people are back in school. It’s better for them to have the experience of being here and learning.”

Of her JSU experience so far as a parent, Purchase said, “They’ve treated us so well here at Jackson State. They really have embraced Joreyn. Everybody that we met gave us phone numbers in case there’s anything that we need. Instead of being anxious I’m just excited.”

As a new JSU student starting a new life away from home for the first time, Patterson said she’ll continue to exercise caution amid COVID-19 by frequently using cleaning supplies and wearing masks. “I’m going to make the best of it.”

Her roommate, Z’Koria Randall, 18, of Chicago, is an incoming freshman studying political science, with a concentration in pre-law. Being an Honors College student, she, too, moved in a day earlier. Randall said she learned about JSU from a high school mentor.

Randall is also adjusting to being away from her immediate family.

“This experience is different because I’ve never been away from home – the change in the environment. It’s something I’ll have to adjust to.” However, while in Mississippi, she said she’ll be able to connect with her paternal grandfather’s family who resides in the Magnolia state.

In the future, Randall said she would like to pledge a Greek organization, and she has a desire to join JSU’s volleyball team in her sophomore year.

Quincy Randolph, 18, from Dallas, Texas, moved into Dixon Hall, a male residential facility. He expressed some trepidation about relocating far from home, too, because “I’m leaving family and friends. This is so different, but it opens you up to the real world. Being on my own is exciting, but scary.”

Despite getting a new ZIP code, Randolph said he’ll press forward. In fact, he expects to pursue a bachelor of science degree after he narrows his choices. While on campus, he said safety must be No. 1. He said he hopes everyone wears masks according to campus guidelines. He’s being extra careful, too, and already has had his first vaccine. Now, he’ll look forward to hitting the gym and, perhaps, helping to start a men’s soccer team, he said.

JSU volunteers prepare to help the McGregory family move into the residential hall from Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by William H. Kelly III/JSU)

Volunteers also played a vital part in the move-in effort.

David White of Jackson, a junior studying criminal justice and political science, was a huge help. Carrying luggage and other belongings of newcomers, the vice president of the Alpha Beta chapter of Phi Beta Sigma said he’s helping because “I just love my HBCU. I know how it was when I first got here in 2019 in my freshman year. I had upperclassmen who helped me out. It’s just about showing love. We’re not alumni yet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help out others. We must also help them grow and develop and to know that we’re all family.”

Volunteer Austin Rolfe of Little Rock, Arkansas, also put his muscles to work. He’s majoring in business marketing and is the current Mister Sophomore and a member of Men of Excellence.

“I know how hectic it was moving in. I wanted to take the time to help them. They need guidance the way I needed as a freshman. I wanted to take the chance to get to know them so that I can be an example and develop a positive relationship with them,” Rolfe said.