Staff Bios

Mark Sturgis

Mark Sturgis

Executive Director

Mark began working in the region in the Mississippi Delta, focused on addressing disparity in areas of affordable housing, health, and education. In Memphis, education became his passion. He has a Master’s in Teaching from the University of Memphis, and is a doctoral candidate at the University of Memphis.  As a teacher, community organizer, and leader in the not-for-profit and advocacy sector, Mark has been deeply engaged in the education reform movement and a wide array of efforts to improve access to high quality education and economic opportunity.

Cate Joyce

Director of Continuous Improvement

Catherine Joyce received her BA from LaSalle University in Philadelphia, PA where she majored in Political Science. Later she earned her MA from the University of Memphis in Political Science with a focus in Public Policy and American Government. Cate worked for The Urban Child Institute, in different capacities, for ten years where she focused her professional career on gathering, analyzing, and synthesizing data for meaningful, result-oriented outcomes aimed at improving the well-being of children in Shelby County. She joins our Seeding Success team, as Director of Continuous Improvement, with a personal conviction and professional dedication to help our partners translate data into actions that will benefit children, their families, and the larger community. She lives in midtown Memphis with her daughter Jane and rescued dog Maple.

Jamilica Burke

Director of Collaborative Action

Jamilica, a Memphis native with a passion for education and youth, studied Political Science and Pre-Medicine at the University of Chicago and earned her Master in Education from Georgia State University.  She began her teaching career through Teach For America with Atlanta Public Schools and went on to serve in school, district, and community leadership roles focused on supporting children and their families.  She returned to Memphis to support the community that produced her.  Currently, she works to create strategic opportunities for collective impact in order to drive system’s level change in the Cradle to Career Continuum with Seeding Success.

Haley Simmons

Director of Policy

Haley’s experience in public affairs spans national, international, state and local levels of government, including serving on the staff of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer in Washington, D.C, representing the U.S. as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Moldova, and working for Mayors Wharton and Strickland as a special assistant. Most recently, Haley was the Director of Public Policy for the Greater Memphis Chamber, where he advocated on behalf of the business community before the Memphis City Council, Shelby County Commission and members of the Tennessee General Assembly. He received a B.S. in political science from the University of Tennessee at Martin, a Master of Public Policy degree from The American University and a J.D. from the University of Illinois College of Law. Haley resides in midtown with his wife Olivia and son Thomas.

Kayla Brooks

Network Manager

Kayla is interested in how systemic poverty plays a role in education outcomes for children in low-income communities. As a Memphis native, she has a passion for making Shelby County a place where all students can receive a quality education. Kayla holds a Bachelor of Science from Vanderbilt University in Human and Organizational Development and a Master of Public Service from the Clinton School of Public Service.Kayla has spent time in Uganda with the Nyaka AIDS Foundation evaluating how improving conditions of families affects education outcomes for their children. Most recently, Kayla worked as Partnership Development Manager for Literacy Mid-South. In this role, she developed relationships with organizations focused on education and worked to provide them with resources and training in an effort to help them better serve their populations.

Courtney Williams Robertson

Network Facilitator

Courtney Williams Robertson is a native Memphian whose love and affinity for the city brought him back five years ago after graduating college. Courtney was named a ‘Next Generation Leader’ by Memphis Business Quarterly Magazine in 2014 for his leadership and work in youth development. He holds a Master of Public Administration from The University of Memphis School of Public & Urban Affairs and Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering from Purdue University –Indianapolis College of Engineering & Technology. He has also spent time in South Africa, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba learning about Education Policy. Courtney is also a devoted actor with Hattiloo Theatre. His favorite quote is by Muhammad Ali, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth” and he strongly believes that his work in education and theatre is his way of giving back to others.

Chloe Moore

Early Childhood Network Facilitator

Chloe Moore is an interdisciplinary researcher, storyteller and strategist who works with communities and organizations to design equitable interventions for complex social issues. Fueled by passions for understanding people and building systems, Chloe knows that rigorous research, ethical narratives, and human-centered design curate the justice and joy our communities deserve. Before joining the Seeding Success team, she worked with an array of local, national, and international non-profits to develop community stories and translate them into reports, programs, interventions, or systems. As a native Memphian, Chloe is excited to join the Seeding Success team in coordinating a cohesive continuum of systems that support children in Shelby County from cradle to career. Chloe holds a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Anthropology and Sociology from Rhodes College.


Paris Ducker

Executive Assistant

Paris has over 25 years of experience in her career of administrative support. She is a Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) through the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP). She joined PeopleFirst Partnership and Seeding Success in 2015. She is a transplant to Memphis, TN from San Francisco, CA. She is the proud “Grandy” of two grandsons. She is active as an advocate in Grass Roots programs in the community.

Anna Talley

Continuous Improvement Specialist

Anna Talley is a Memphis native. She returned to Memphis to teach middle school, before moving into the non-profit education space. As a Continuous Improvement Specialist, she supports partners through technical support and data visualization and works with partners in Beyond the Classroom, a deep-dive continuous improvement project. She believes children and families in Memphis deserve high-quality educational opportunities. She graduated from Wellesley College with a Bachelor’s in Political Science, and as a Master’s in Political Science from the University of Memphis.