Nathan Cheatham is one of the members of the Class of 2014 who will be celebrating their graduation from Manchester Community College Thursday, May 29. The college’s 50th Commencement Exercises will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Bicentennial Band Shell on the campus lawn.
Cheatham will receive an associate in science degree in communication. He has carved a name for himself at MCC over his two years as editor-in-chief of the Live Wire, the campus newspaper. He has ruffled feathers with investigative pieces and scrapped an issue at deadline in favor of breaking stories on the now infamous March 2013 lockdown, but overseeing the paper’s new online edition will be his legacy.
All of this may not have happened had Cheatham been able to find the final $200 he needed to enroll in an auto tech program back home in Michigan. “It’s good that I was short or I would still be in Michigan in auto tech and I would have never known that I wanted to be a journalist,” he said.
Cheatham packed his ‘98 Chrysler Town and Country minivan and moved to Connecticut in November 2009. He had little knowledge of the Constitution State or its location on the map. He knew he would eventually go to college but concentrated on work and saving money during his first couple of years away from home.
Northport Public School (Northport, Michigan/population 526) did not have a newspaper but Cheatham, who loved to write, attempted to start one. He has always been a dreamer and as a high-school senior project, he tried getting the paper off the ground. He had the framework in place, but the project came to a halt when it came to the finance piece, so he moved on to other things.
Over the five years between graduating high school and enrolling at MCC, the socially active Cheatham traveled and worked a myriad of jobs and in the fall of 2011, he participated in the Occupy Hartford protest. He read an opinion piece published in the Live Wire written by Jelani Burrell on that event, and that piece both infuriated Cheatham and rekindled his journalistic fire.
He wrote a letter to the editor and, once that was published, he contacted then-editor SallyAnne Garvey and wound up writing a few stories for her. By summer he was hooked. Cheatham knew a lot of people were leaving the Live Wire and his latent editing skills came back to him. “I made it my mission to do whatever I could to volunteer and show my worth and, by elections in September, I was voted in as editor,” Cheatham said.
He will continue his education and the pursuit of a journalism degree at Central Connecticut State University. “Manchester Community College really helped me to gain the confidence I needed,” he said. “I don’t think I could measure how it’s affected me. I feel like I am very confident in what I say and who I say it to. I can run a staff meeting – I never would have gotten that in the work force.”
Cheatham was admittedly shy and more of a follower than a leader before he returned to school. He was used to having his dreams kicked away, but found direction and focus at MCC. Bringing the Live Wire to the internet has been a major project for the 26-year old and he will be able to move on to the next level with that accomplishment in his back pocket.
He still believes in print journalism and is shooting for ink-stained stars. “When I switched over to journalism I looked at The New York Times and said, ‘I want to work for you,’ “ he said. “I want to be at a paper that excites me, that has credibility; and nothing excites me more and has more credibility than The New York Times.”