The Mississippi First team is a group of dedicated individuals who work tirelessly to promote the mission of Mississippi First.

Rachel Canter

Rachel Canter

Executive Director
rachel@mississippifirst.org
601-398-9008

Rachel’s responsibilities involve direct interaction with all interested stakeholders, donors, legislators, and other policymakers. She works with the Board of Directors to ensure MSF is functioning according to our mission and goals and operating within our budget and funding restrictions. Rachel also oversees all policy research and advocacy initiatives.

MacKenzie Stroh Hines

Chief of Staff
mackenzie@mississippifirst.org
662-743-4055

MacKenzie is responsible for contributing to the development of the organization’s strategic goals and set and guide Mississippi First’s communications strategy for both marketing and policy purposes. She is responsible for promoting, enhancing, and protecting the organization’s brand reputation as well as a broad range of public relations activities relative to the strategic direction and positioning of the organization and its advocacy agenda.

Toren Ballard

Director of K-12 Education Policy
toren@mississippifirst.org
601-398-9008

Toren is a K-12 policy expert who assists Mississippi First in developing and enacting our K-12 policy agenda, which currently includes charter schools; standards, testing, and accountability issues; and educator pipeline research. He is responsible for analyzing policy and data; developing policy proposals, supporting advocacy activities directed toward policymakers, leading research projects, writing policy papers, and delivering policy presentations.


The Mississippi First Board of Directors is made up of a group of dedicated and diverse individuals. Each board member serves a three-year term.

Kesha Perry, Board Chair

Greenville, MS
Term: FY17-FY19, FY19-FY21

Brett Harris, Board Member

Laurel, MS
Term: FY17-FY19, FY20

Adam Smith, Board Member

St. Louis, MO
Term: FY17-FY19, FY19-21

Catoria Martin, Board Member

Jackson, MS
Term: FY19-FY21