Voice For The People | Alexis Cheatham uses leadership roles to advocate for minorities [Cover]

Even before she started at Franklin College, senior Alexis Cheatham has been extraordinarily involved in school and extracurriculars.

In her senior year of high school, Cheatham was involved in show choir, National Honor Society and the fall musical along with being a student ambassador.

Since starting at Franklin College in 2017, Cheatham has found a way to manage double majoring in psychology and creative writing while being heavily involved in the campus community.

She is the president of the Black Student Union; president of the dance team; vice president of Sigma Tau Delta honor society; a student ambassador and multicultural recruitment and admissions intern; a resident assistant; and a member of Psi Chi as well as the Student Foundation.

She is currently in her second year as president of BSU. In this role, she runs both general and executive meetings, represents the organization at events and communicates with members to ensure the group has the resources and plans in place to meet its goals.

Hannah Adams-Ingram, campus chaplain and sponsor for the Black Student Union, said Cheatham is an excellent leader and well-rounded person.

"She is hard-working inside and outside of class—studying in different departments, leading multiple organizations in her time at FC, and making life more joyful and inclusive for anyone she interacts with," Adams-Ingram said.

As president of BSU, Cheatham said she shares the importance of acknowledging intersectionality and privilege.

“I like to talk about intersectionality and LGBTQ community because I’m Black, but I’m also a part of the queer community,” Cheatham said. “So whenever I advocate for those I like to talk about how intersectionality plays a big part for me because whenever I walk into a space I’m not just one thing. I’m multiple things.”

In October, Cheatham received the Terrell Parker LGBTQ+ Community Leadership Award at the second Annual Harvey Milk Celebration and Awards for her involvement in and advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community.

After receiving the award, Cheatham said she felt validated because "in the past, the faces of the community have been white cisgender men when black transgender women are in the back doing the brunt of the work."

"I was really honored to receive that award and have that acknowledgement, like in the speech when I was receiving it, that intersectionaliy is a bit part of the LGBTQ community."

Cheatham stressed the importance of not invalidating those voices at the expense of others, but to listen to the "wide range of voices because all their experiences are different."

She said the other component of these conversations is recognizing privilege.

Cheatham's involvement doesn't stop at BSU; she has a pivotal role on campus that doesn't go unnoticed by her advisors and professors.

"Alexis is a star example of someone who isn't afraid to follow multiple interests and engage in life as a multi-faceted person," Adams-Ingram said. "She is a great leader not just because of what she does, but who she is."

In her first-year seminar class, Sara Colburn-Alsop, professor of Spanish, said she saw Cheatham’s potential. Colburn-Alsop also acted as Cheatham’s academic advisor before she declared majors.

“Honestly, she’s very independent, reliable,” Colburn-Alsop said. “And her maturity, even as a freshman, was very notable.”

Cheatham joined the dance team and later became a co-captain for her sophomore and junior years; however, this year the group revamped positions to have a president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer.

She said the dance team is a student-run club unlike the multiple sports teams on campus.

In her freshman year, Cheatham asked Colburn-Alsop to be the advisor for the group. Colburn-Alsop said it has been great getting to know Cheatham even more through the dance team.

The team usually performs at basketball games, homecoming, festivals in downtown Franklin and retirement homes, but has not been able to perform as much since the start of the pandemic.

Colburn-Alsop said Cheatham provides guidance wherever she goes because she is “setting the pattern of leadership” that makes other people want to be involved, and a pleasure to work with.

As a multicultural recruitment and admissions intern, Cheatham is transitioning new interns to give tours and work in the admissions offi ce before extra responsibilities are added in the fall.

“Our main priority is to try to get more students of color on campus,” she said.

The multicultural recruitment interns will work to recruit African American, Hispanic and Asian students to come to Franklin to increase the diversity of the college.

She is a resident assistant in the Johnson-Dietz hall. She recently became the RA for the Building Our Leaders through Diversity community housing. B.O.L.D. is a unique living and learning community and on-campus housing option that provides multicultural enrichment.

Cheatham said she’s passionate about many things but advocating for underrepresented populations and making sure everyone has equal opportunity is something she’s really passionate about.

She plans to follow this passion by going to graduate school for social work and obtaining a counselors license so she can go into trauma counseling specifically for underrepresented groups and children.

“There’s a stigma, and belief in underrepresented groups, specifically people of color, that we should not acknowledge our mental health, that we should push it on the backburner," Cheatham said. "So just having more people of color that are counselors and therapists, psychologists is something that's really important."

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