Championing Resilience and Advocacy
There are moments in life that alter the course of one’s journey, and for Kimberley Cheatham, that moment came with the tragic events surrounding George Floyd and the world’s response. Determined to make a difference, she began her educational pursuit to gain knowledge and support high-poverty schools as a volunteer. This life-changing event, coupled with a virtual workshop from the Trauma Resource Institute inspired her to create the JUST US program—a support system for middle school students lacking access to mental health resources. Recognizing the program’s efficacy, Cheatham collaborated with other professionals to develop a curriculum for middle school educators and afterschool program staff.
Fuelled by her passion for positive change in youth, Cheatham embarked on further education, earning a Graduate Certificate in Youth Development and Leadership. The experience was so fulfilling that she went on to pursue a Master of Science in Youth, Family, and Community Sciences at NC State. Despite being away from the classroom for years, Cheatham’s time at NC State has been truly transformative, with her fully embraced by the university community, fondly referring to herself as a member of the “Pack.” The support services on campus have reignited her love for learning, and she recognizes the value of returning to school despite the challenges of balancing family, work, and community commitments.
Notably, Cheatham’s journey has been deeply influenced by the faculty, staff, and peers at NC State. Annie Hardison-Moody, Maru Gonzalez, and Sudha Sankar, all faculty members within the AHS department, have been pivotal mentors, offering guidance and unwavering support even during difficult times. Engaging in spaces directly impacting youth, Cheatham has realized the pressing need for youth support in society. Her growing interest in public policy reflects her dedication to enhancing the overall well-being of families. She actively participates in The Collective, facilitated by the Women’s Center and Prevention Services, as a valuable space for women of color to connect.
Inspired by her resilient mother and grandmother, who both worked in social work and played vital roles in their rural community, Cheatham’s ambitious plans for the future center on advocacy. Over the next five years, she envisions championing policies that promote family well-being and engaging in dialogues fostering understanding, growth, and positive change. Her work as a co-creator of youth programming will continue, with her ultimate vision being initiatives led by youth themselves, supported by her guidance.
Beyond her academic pursuits, Cheatham is making a significant impact as the outreach coordinator in the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion at UNC Wilmington. Collaborating with stakeholders, she designs, implements, and supports initiatives related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) on campus and in the community. Her dedication to empowering youth virtually and through art projects emphasizes the importance of nurturing young minds during challenging times.
Cheatham’s decision to take this path was driven by her joy in collaborating with faculty, staff, students, and the community to guide and support others in achieving their goals. As a facilitator for the community resilience model and director of the JUST US program, she seizes opportunities to positively influence and inspire others. Cheatham’s journey stands as an inspiring testament to the power of compassion, resilience, and dedication to creating positive change in the lives of others. Her unwavering commitment to supporting youth and families and her vision for championing policies that enhance well-being make her an outstanding asset to the community. As she prepares to graduate in Fall 2024, we eagerly anticipate the continued positive impact she will make on society as she advances on her advocacy journey.