Gainesville native André Cheek is one of five named to the Department of Juvenile Justice’s Re-entry Services Unit, in part to better meet requirements of the state’s new juvenile justice reform law.
The goal is to increase success rates for former juvenile offenders who are in the process of returning to their communities after release.
“We are in the process of the development of a campaign, where we are going to educate the communities and those internally as well, about what re-entry is,” Cheek said. “(About) the benefits, and what direction the Department of Juvenile Justice is going as far as that’s concerned.”
Part of her responsibilities are to study what other states do for rehabilitating and re-entering their juvenile offenders, then reporting what those best practices are.
Cheek is the education research analyst for the department’s Office of Education, led by Deputy Director B. Keith Jones.
“I think the thing to note is that what we’re doing is we’re trying to consult with renowned experts to make sure we’re consistent with what best practices are,” Jones said. “The basic methodologies won’t really change in terms of how we engage, but we’re ... making sure we address those issues around employment and things like that when they come out of our system.”
Cheek, a “born and raised” Gainesville native, has 22 years of experience in education, including with Gainesville City Schools and the former North Georgia College & State University and Gainesville State College.
She remains active in the community, volunteering with the Edmonson-Telford Center for Children board, which works with victimized children. She’s also served on Georgia Superintendent John Barge’s 2012 Parent Advisory Council.
Cheek first joined the juvenile justice department in March 2013.
“I always like to try to work with youth and then make them think of things in a different way, things that they never thought,” Cheek said. “To where it kind of motivates them to be more conscious and look at life differently.
“This, to me, is an awesome opportunity.”