Our Team

This is the MELA core team, but it takes a village.

Biz Harris

Interim Executive Director

Biz executes the vision of the board, leads the organization in building and adapting strategic plans, and coordinates staff to meet goals aligned to MELA’s mission. She also oversees organizational operations and supports our Collective Impact work.

Read Biz's Bio

April May

Coalitions and Programs Director

April supports MELA’s role as a backbone organization in coalition building. She oversees incentive programs, devises strategies to recruit coalition members and grow the number of engaged members, and ensures the meetings are facilitated effectively.

Read April's Bio

Chloe Lake

Communications Director

Chloe leads MELA’s work highlighting the successes of the Mississippi early childhood community. She oversees and executes the communications promoting Mississippi Early Learning Alliance’s events and programs.

Read Chloe's Bio

Our Board

Dr. Devon Brenner

Director of the Social Science Research Center, Mississippi State University

Board Chair

Dr. Ira Murray

Associate Director of Research and Development, Initiative for Race Research & Justice at Vanderbilt University

Board Vice Chair

Ross Weems

First Vice President 
BankPlus Private Client Group

Board Treasurer

Dr. Alexander Washington

Director of Federal Government Affairs, Entergy Services, LLC

Dr. Suzette Matthews

Director of Development, University of Mississippi School of Law

Mandy Mahoney

US Program Director at the Regulatory Assistance Project

Eddie Oliver, III

Senior Operations Manager-Site Lead Medtronics

Corey Hinshaw

Attorney at Watkins & Eager PLLC

Rich Long

Dr. Richard Long

Executive Director of Learning First Alliance

Dr. Jameshyia Ballard

Director of the Mississippi WIC Program,
MS State Department of Health

Get to Know Biz

Henry Ford said “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. But working together is success.” Our Deputy Director, Biz Harris, earned a Master’s of Divinity degree from Emory University in order to explore how communities of faith work together to make change and brings passion for collaboration and community to her work. Biz has a successful track record of bringing people together to work toward a common goal, and has organized small and large-scale events that facilitate collaboration between individuals, organizations, institutions. She was the co-coordinator of the Mississippi Education Policy Fellowship Program, which focused on building the capacity of P-12 and higher education leaders, practitioners, and advocates to advance equitable policies for Mississippi’s students.

Before joining the MELA team, she worked with the Tallahatchie River Foundation to launch their local collective impact initiative around PreK. Currently, in addition to her work with MELA, Biz is the founder and director of Nurture Our Future, a non-profit that provides out-of-school learning & enrichment experiences, parent support and service referrals, and books to families in Laurel, Mississippi.

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Get to Know April

Our Coalitions and Programs Director, April J. May, is from Jackson, MS. She brings 18 years of experience in education and early childhood professional capacity-building, as well as her deep connections within the early learning community of Mississippi to her role. April has an intricate understanding of the childcare system: she serves on the board for the Mississippi Early Childhood Association, was a member of the State Early Childhood Advisory Council (SECAC), and launched the first Mississippi Leadership for Children Network with forward-thinking colleagues and Leading for Children, Inc.

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Get to Know Chloe

Our Communications Director, Chloe Lake, has nine years of experience working in public health communications, six of those focused on translating maternal and child health data into easy-to-understand findings and recommendations. She resides in Louisiana, and she would love to see a southern state become a model for childcare and early education in the United States. In an age of information-overload, Chloe understands how to cut through the noise to deliver powerful messages to the right people. She prioritizes strategic communications approaches that go beyond building awareness to change people’s minds, attitudes, and behaviors.

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