Mississippi State House District 17
Cathy Grace and her family have lived in Tupelo for over 25 years. She has shown leadership in the community by serving as the founding Director of the Family Resource Center, now known as Families First; as a staff member for CREATE Foundation; and as a consultant for Head Start and Lee County and Tupelo Public Schools. Dr. Grace has been a fixture on WTVA/WLOX for over 20 years providing the “Speaking for Children” commentary. Active in the Tupelo Schools as a parent and grandparent, she has provided guidance to the early childhood programs across the district and to child care directors across the town and state.
A member of the First United Methodist in Tupelo, she currently chairs the Mission Committee and is a member of the Administrative Board. As an adult Sunday School teacher for over 20 years, she has worked with other class members to start the Weekend Back Pack Food Program for children in the Tupelo Schools whom teachers have identified as not having enough food to eat on the weekends. Currently the program serves 300 children. In the mid 1990s, Dr. Grace served as the President of the Tupelo Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (TRAIN). The organization worked with churches in the community to provide services to homebound individuals with the AIDS diagnosis.
Dr. Grace has remained active in the community even after she left the Family Resource Center and was employed on the faculty at Mississippi State University (MSU) as the Director of the Early Childhood Institute. Over the course of her career, Dr. Grace has been awarded over $30 million in grant funds to support early childhood education in the state as well as in Tupelo.
After leaving MSU with the rank of Professor Emerita, she spent three years working on early childhood issues in Washington and returned to Tupelo where she coordinated one of the first state funded pre-k collaborative grants in Monroe County for four years. Dr. Grace is now Co-Director of the Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning at the University of Mississippi and the Early Childhood Coordinator for the North MS Education Consortium.
A first grade teacher for four years, Dr. Grace has worked for over 40 years in Mississippi for young children and their families. As a faculty member at four state universities, coordinating the implementation of public kindergarten while employed at the MS Department of Education and serving on various state and national committees and boards, Dr. Grace has always promoted the children in the state. She is nationally known as a strong advocate for children and their families in rural areas, particularly Mississippi and Tupelo. Of the many awards she has received, the one she values the most is the Winter-Reed Partnership Award presented to her by the Mississippi Association of Partners in Education for her work in early childhood education.
Dr. Grace is a native of Eastern Arkansas, where she graduated with a BS in Elementary Education from the University of Arkansas. She received her Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Arkansas State University and her Doctorate of Education from the University of Mississippi in Curriculum and Instruction. She is married to Charles Grace and has two children and two grandchildren.