Cicely Simpson is the founder and CEO of Summit Public Affairs in Washington, D.C., a long way from her beginnings in the small town of Woodbury, Tennessee. She credits her Head Start for her successful journey from small-town roots to attending law school and working on congressional offices, all leading to the launch of her own company.

Cicely’s educational journey began at the Cannon County Head Start program, which set her up to excel in kindergarten and on through high school. Cicely went on to pursue higher education, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science from Lipscomb University in Nashville.

From there, with her heart set on practicing law, Cicely left Tennessee for Pepperdine University School of Law in California. Cicely achieved her goal, starting her career as a criminal prosecutor in Los Angeles, but deciding California was not for her, Cicely returned to Nashville and continued her legal career there. Next came a professional turn that Cicely herself would not have predicted.

A Growing Career

“When one door closes, one door opens,” Cicely said, explaining the shift in her career and the start of her journey in Washington.

Soon after returning to Nashville, a couple of friends convinced Cicely to join them in working for Rep. Lincoln Davis’s first Congressional campaign. When he won the election, Rep. Davis invited Cicely to join him in Washington as his Legislative Director. Cicely accepted, and over the next six years, she worked with Rep. Davis and Re. Jim Cooper on furthering their public policy goals in the U.S. Congress.

Then came the next professional turn. Cicely left the Hill and began her lobbying career by opening a Washington, D.C., government relations office for Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robbins.This role led her to the National Restaurant Association, where she served as the executive vice president of public affairs at the trade association for several years.

Now, as the president and CEO of her own company, Cicely is applying her years of experience and expertise in public affairs to supporting a wide range of clients with their advocacy, risk management, and communication needs.

Big Believers in Head Start, Then and Now

“I’m blessed to have come from a family who are big believers in Head Start, both then and now,” she said. “My brother attended Head Start, I went to Head Start, my nephew who is now 18 went to Head Start, my cousins went to Head Start, and we all went to Head Start in the same community.”

Cicely’s firm belief that Head Start was imperative to her own educational and professional journeys, as well as those of her family members, makes her a dedicated Head Start advocate. “When I was in Congressman Davis’s office, as well as Congressman Cooper’s office, we signed on to every letter, every bill, we supported every opportunity to support Head Start financially from the Capitol Hill perspective,” Cicely explained, “We knew, and we know -I won’t say past tense because currently we know - how important it is.”

Malkia Payton-Jackson

Malkia Payton-Jackson is NHSA’s first-ever director of alumni engagement. Back in Cambridge, Head Start is where she made her first best friend — and now, she’s inviting Head Start alumni to connect with one another, share their unique stories, and help keep Head Start strong for generations to come.

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