Mississippi First was founded in 2008 by Rachel Canter and her childhood friend, Sanford Johnson. Driven to change the fact that Mississippi has historically been last, our founders set a bold vision: a Mississippi first in education nationally.


Now in our second decade, Mississippi First is ready to dramatically accelerate our impact. The mission of Mississippi First is to champion transformative policy solutions ensuring educational excellence for every Mississippi child. 


Mississippi First envisions a Mississippi first in prosperity, innovation, and quality of life. To accomplish this goal, our work is dedicated to increasing educational achievement and graduation rates and decreasing achievement gaps.


The values of Mississippi First illustrate the principles that guide our actions and decisions.

We build relationships within and among local communities to increase citizen voice and
engagement especially among important education issues facing Mississippi.

We work with policymakers, politicians, and members
of the public who share our goals, regardless of ideology
or political party.

We only support policies
which are backed by high-quality research and have the potential to solve or alleviate entrenched problems.

We foster honest dialogue
about policy research, options, and challenges of different solutions, and willingly communicate our priorities, goals, and strategies to the public and policymakers.

We hold ourselves and
others, especially those
who influence education,
accountable for truth and

We form partnerships with
organizations and youth
with similar goals in order to amplify our collective efforts to better Mississippi.

We believe all children
in Mississippi deserve
educational excellence and prioritize those who are or have been underserved.