Some might say the creation of Mississippi First (MSF) started long before its launch in 2008. Sanford Johnson and Rachel Canter met riding the school bus in elementary school over 20 years ago. They formed a friendship that would last beyond their years as public school students in Starkville, Mississippi. As time passed, their paths continued to cross. They both became teachers in the Mississippi Delta, and later both went to school to study public policy–Rachel at the Harvard Kennedy School and Sanford at the Clinton School of Public Service. While they shared many experiences, their strongest commonality is that they both have a deep desire to improve education in their home state. This desire led Rachel and Sanford to the idea of Mississippi First.

We are celebrating 10 years! What was once just an idea is now a high-performing organization that employs nine people and is changing the lives of students in Mississippi daily. In the past decade, we have passed two pieces of watershed legislation (Mississippi Public Charter Schools Act and the Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2013), become an important implementation partner to education policymakers, published multiple reports, and developed the groundwork for a teen health organization. We will be celebrating our successes in 2018, and we hope you will join us!

We would like to formally introduce you to Teen Health Mississippi! When Rachel and Sanford founded Mississippi First, they never thought their project promoting sex education in public schools would grow to encompass five staff members and multiple projects in teen health. Our teen health work has now expanded beyond our mission, so we made the strategic decision to “graduate” these projects into a new non-profit. Staff member Emily Feher has transitioned into the role of Interim Executive Director of Teen Health Mississippi. She and the rest of the Teen Health Mississippi team will be working hard over the next year to spin-off. We will share that journey as it unfolds.

Today, Mississippi First is an organization of 9 Mississippians dedicated to improving pre-K-12 education and teen health in Mississippi.