Welcome to The Dean’s List! The Dean’s List will profile up-and-comers in Memphis who are certain to be the next group of leaders in the nonprofit, corporate, government, and faith communities. The Dean’s List is curated by Kevin Dean, the Executive Director of Literacy Mid-South.
Kayla Brooks, 27, is the Network Facilitator for Seeding Success, a nonprofit that collaborates with corporate, nonprofit, and faith-based organizations to ensure every child graduates high school prepared for college, career & success in life. Though she may work behind the scenes, but her impact on Memphis is huge. She coordinates hundreds of agencies to align their work, which could be a daunting task for many. A graduate of Vanderbilt University and the Clinton School of Public Service, Kayla returned to her hometown to make a difference. Kayla is a rising star to watch! She has a big future ahead of her!
Why do you call Memphis home?
Memphis is home because I was born and raised here. There is a soothing calm that comes over me whenever I cross the bridge returning home.
What do you think is Memphis’ greatest challenge?
I think Memphis’ greatest challenge is education. We are not where we want to/should be as far as reading scores are concerned. The future of our city depends on how well we prepare our children. Education helps reduce crime and poverty rates, and it will improve health. That said, I am confident that this is an issue our community can tackle together.
Tell us why your job is important for Memphis.
I would not necessarily say my job is important, but rather the work I am collectively engaged in is important. I, along with other community partners, am working to improve education outcomes cradle to career for youth in Shelby County. In particular, I work with organizations in the out-of-school and after school space. My role is to support these organizations in determining how to work collectively and independently in order to better serve their students and families.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen (so far) in Memphis?
The strangest things I have seen in Memphis are bike lanes in neighborhood where people do not bike.
If one of your friends was coming to Memphis to visit and wanted you to build their itinerary, what would it look like?
If I had a friend travel to Memphis, his or her itinerary would probably include a tour of the Civil Rights Museum, Stax Museum, and Slave Haven. This would be followed by a picnic lunch by the river or bbq at A&R on Elvis Presley. Depending on the time of year, we may check out a Grizzlies or Redbirds Game. Evening activities may include: live music at Memphis Sound Lounge, a play at Hattiloo, or dancing at Prohibition Lounge.
What’s the one Memphis restaurant you couldn’t live without?
I could not live without Lenny’s. I am addicted to the Philly Cheesesteak.
What makes Memphis different from other cities?
Memphis is a gem and we don’t know it. I think that is what makes us different from other cities. We are our own best kept secret. I hear leaders and people influence discuss the need to recruit talent here. I hear Memphians talk about moving to other cities because those places have this or that. I think people do not realize that there is a wealth of untapped talent here. There’s a wealth of activities here, you just have to expand your horizons. There is so much history in this place, especially Black history. The Orange Mound and Douglass communities are examples, just to name a few. Memphis is different from other cities because we think something greater exists elsewhere, but greater is right at home.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? I love to write and to travel. Hopefully in 10 years I will have been able to infuse those passions into something meaningful and financially fruitful. I enjoy working in education and plan to continually engage in this work.
What’s the one misconception people have about Memphis that is simply untrue?
The biggest misconception is that you will get killed, shot, or robbed. That’s just not true.
What area of town is your favorite and why?
The downtown riverfront is my favorite area of town. I love to watch the water. It is also great inspiration when I am looking for something to write.
What can Memphians do to make a difference in our community?
There are several things that Memphians can do to make a difference in our community.We can all vote in EVERY election and hold our officials accountable. We can take the initiative to improve things in our community if there is something wrong e.g. pick up trash, volunteer at the local school, etc.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I always tell people Memphis is full of great things and full of problems just like any other city. However, I believe Memphis is a place for passionate people interested in change and who are not afraid of hard work. It is a place for change makers. This is why I made it my home.