CCCC’s Jalen Cheek selected for national recognition


SANFORD — Jalen Cheek, an education navigator at Central Carolina Community College’s Chatham Main Campus, was recently selected for the 2023 Outstanding New Professional at a Two-Year College Award by the American College Personnel Association (ACPA).

This national award recognizes a new education professional employed at a two-year college who has displayed outstanding professional potential and commitment to Student Affairs/Student Development. Cheek completed his Associate in Arts degree at CCCC in 2018 and received his Bachelor’s degree in Communication from the University of North Carolina Greensboro in 2020. While completing his degree at UNCG, he also served as a peer advisor and student reflection leader. His colleagues note that even as a CCCC student, he was always providing assistance to other students, served as an academic tutor and volunteered to support campus activities.

Cheek began his career in education at Central Carolina when he was hired as a student support specialist in 2021 and was promoted to education navigator at the Chatham Main Campus in the spring of 2022. In this role, he assists students who are exploring college programs, helps them understand and complete the onboarding and advising process, and continues to support students as they achieve their academic and career goals at the college.

“I decided to work in community college education because I remembered the connections I made as a student here at CCCC,” Cheek, who lives in  Sanford, said. “The dynamic between high school and four-year institutions differs entirely from the community college. You get to follow the students through to graduation — they stop by your office and can create a space where they feel comfortable. Another reason I decided to come to CCCC is because my advisors impacted my education.

“My role as an educational navigator is a fun and supportive way to engage with the students here as a community,” Cheek said. “While we ensure students stay on track, it is also amazing to see their growth and development while taking classes with us.”

Amy Gustavson, CCCC assistant director of student advising and success, works closely with Cheek and praises him for how he helps students.

“Jalen Cheek truly cares about students and wants to help them succeed,” Gustavson said. “He is everything you would want in a higher education professional — caring, compassionate and knowledgeable about the college.”

CCCC Chatham County Provost Mark Hall stated that Cheek has been a valuable member of the student support team since he joined the college.

“Jalen has demonstrated the ability to interact productively with potential and current students from many different backgrounds and situations, helping them navigate the processes involved in enrolling in programs and being successful in their courses,” Hall said. “Jalen has a history of supporting others, especially those who seem to need the most help, to realize the opportunities afforded them through education.”

Cheek notes that he enjoys working with the many departments and the ability to work closely with others to learn and better serve the students.

“I can participate in campus activities, learn processes from financial aid and run questions by the registrar’s office,” he said. “These departments and more have successfully taught me ways to assist the students better, and I appreciate the connections I have made.”

Cheek will be recognized for his accomplishments and receive his award at the upcoming ACPA conference in New Orleans.


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