U.S. Department of Commerce

02/19/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 02/19/2021 08:42

Spotlight on Commerce: Cheryl Jackson, Program Analyst, Atlanta Regional Office, U.S. Economic Development Administration

Guest blog post by Cheryl Jackson, Program Analyst, Atlanta Regional Office, U.S. Economic Development Administration

My key responsibility is to support the Partnership Planning, CARES Act Recovery Assistance, University Center, and Indian Tribes non-construction grants for the U. S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) Atlanta Regional Office (ATRO). As such, I review all post-award documentation for technical grant management and implementation, including budget amendments/extensions, payment reimbursements, audit reviews, closeout, and the subsequent grant awards. I also assist in implementing the new processes for the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) to support the performance data collection requirement for EDA.

Before coming to EDA, I worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Grants Management Division, Southeast Regional Office in Atlanta, Georgia, as a financial management specialist. Prior to that position, I worked with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Head Start, Grants Management Division, as the lead grants management coordinator and program specialist. In this position, I proudly helped implement the award of more than $3.5 billion in grants to Head Start/Early Head Start programs and collaborated with state program directors and state officials within Region IV State of Alabama to improve and provide quality childcare services to low-income children and families.

With more than ten years of experience leading and administering grants within the federal government, I was drawn to EDA because of its vision and mission - to ensure sustainable economic growth, diversification, and the creation of jobs throughout the Atlanta region and across the U.S.

I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, where I attended Henry Grady High School and continued my education at Clark Atlanta University, the first Historically Black College and University in south Atlanta. I later transferred to Herzing University to pursue a dual major degree. I received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting, as well as a Master of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Management with honors from Herzing University. During my college experiences, I learned to be selfless, open-minded, and strive towards improving people's lives and helping low-income children and families within my community. It was there that stewardship, determination, resiliency, and a thirst for education was instilled in me.

Being a member of the Blacks in Government, Black Girls Social Club, and Israel Baptist Church has truly changed my overall outlook on life itself and the world today. In addition, the pledge I made to the Grand Chapter for the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority drives me to continue to help my community by volunteering at the local homeless shelter and senior living facilities.

The person that influenced my life the most is my grandmother, Nellie Mae Jackson. She was raised in a single-family household with two girls and two boys who were taught to be respectful, to master learning, to worship and to work hard. Another person that influenced my life is Maya Angelou, the famous American poet whose work has encouraged me over the years as a young woman to stay motivated and pursue my career goals.

As I became a young lady, I realized my grandmother encouraged me to utilize all my gifts. My grandmother taught me the value of family, feminism, the meaning of friendship, and the importance of having integrity - qualities that I would later instill in my own children.

I can say today; my grandmother encourages me to balance life activities, fitness, to be grateful, to continue education, to strive for what I desire, and to be a blessing to others in need in today's unthinkable struggles.

There are two quotes that continue to motivate, enhance, and keep me focused personally and professionally:

'If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.'
- Maya Angelou

'I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.'
-Maya Angelou

Black History Month is a time to celebrate the lives of African Americans who fought to free slaves, secure the right to vote, and achieve equal rights and justice for all. As a child, I enjoyed writing about my favorite black history legends such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Frederick Douglass and our civil rights heroes who gathered to walk for freedom in Selma Alabama, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Being a career civil servant to me means it is my turn to make a change. My motto in this profession is to strive each day to be a great listener, to educate others, and to improve the lives of people I interact with both professionally and personally. I try to live by example for my family and children and to admit when I make mistakes so I can learn from them.

My advice to the youth interested in a career in the federal government would be to present yourself in a professional manner, be flexible when opportunities present themselves, and be open to travel. Think of the opportunity as a journey that will broaden your scope of knowledge along the way. Engage with your co-workers and do not prevent yourself from gaining valuable training and experience in job categories or geographic locations you never considered. Broaden your horizon to expand within the Federal government or other organizations. Pursue growth and share new ideas to enhance the agency and be consistent. Be goal-oriented to be better than you were when you began and teach and inspire someone before you leave the agency.

Most importantly, continue pursuing your graduate degrees for your desired careers, and connect with your key partners to obtain a wealth of information to build your own portfolio.

Better yet, when you take your oath to serve - live it, hit the ground running, work hard every day, and be results-driven. Surround yourself with knowledgeable, positive people who will not only lead you in the right direction but encourage you to be your best self. Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses because, in order to grow, you must identify and understand how to overcome them!