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College Success Navigators

MARC has contracted with a team of experienced individuals to serve as college success navigators, working one-on-one with returning adult students to help them to and through college. Beginning in September, these navigators will be available at community locations to meet with people who are interested in getting back to school and completing degrees. For more information, contact:

Ileana Cepeda

Schedule an appointment
with Ileana



Ileana Cepeda joined KC Degrees in June 2019 as a college success navigator. In this role, she will guide adults through the process of returning to college. Specifically, she will be working as a bilingual navigator to help build the diversity of KC Degrees students.

As a first-generation Latina graduate and the first one in her family to navigate college admissions, Ileana understands many of the struggles students may encounter. She received her master’s degree in public health from Kansas State University in 2017 and her Bachelor of Science in biology from Newman University in 2015. Additionally, Ileana was selected for the EXITO! Cancer Disparities Research Internship in 2018, funded by the National Cancer Institute, where she plans to conduct further research to better understand how to eliminate or minimize disparities among Latinos dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Ileana serves as a research associate JUNTOS Against Cancer where she manages the day-to-day activities of a grant that uses text message-based intervention to help Latinos in Southwest Kansas and the Kansas City Metro area quit smoking.

Pamela R. Harris

Schedule an appointment
with Pam



Pamela Harris joined the KC Degrees initiative in August 2016, and is now a project coordinator. Pamela brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in social services, public education, postsecondary education, community engagement and parent and family engagement. Prior to joining KC Degrees, Pamela was employed at Kansas City Public Schools as director of parent and family engagement. Previously, she worked for the Kauffman Scholars, Inc., program as the dean of students and vice president of parent and family engagement. Pamela holds a Bachelor of Science degree in human development and family life from the University of Kansas and a Master of Science in organization development psychology from Avila University. She is a life-long learner and has spent the past 17 years working to improve the lives of children and families within the Greater Kansas City community. In her new role, Pamela will serve the KC Degrees initiative by supporting returning adult students to and through college and help them understand their postsecondary options. She will work closely with college advisors, financial and enrollment services personnel.

Cathie Peterson

Schedule an appointment
with Cathie



Dr. Cathie Peterson joined the KC Degrees team as a college navigator in September 2016. Before joining the team, Cathie served as director of the Center for Adult and Professional Education at Mid-America Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas. In that role she advised adult students and developed a schedule of accelerated degree completion courses for adult students. In addition to working at MNU, Cathie was employed for 20 years at Johnson County Community College. She has also served as dean of academic affairs at various universities, and community and technical colleges in Kansas City, Missouri; Saint Paul, Minnesota; Irvine, California; and Beatrice, Nebraska. After retiring a year ago, Cathie decided she wanted to continue to work with higher education institutions while serving the community of adult learners in the Kansas City region, and the KC Degrees initiative provided the perfect opportunity to help returning adult students get the information they need to complete their college degrees. Cathie earned a bachelor's degree in education from Minnesota State University, a master's degree in adult education from the University of Nebraska and and a doctoral degree in higher education administration from the University of Kansas.Her educational background and her passion for lifelong learning will benefit the students who are part of the program.

Carrie Barnes


Carrie Barnes joined KC Degrees as a college navigator in December 2017. She has lived in eastern Jackson County, Missouri, most of her life. She received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Central Methodist University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC). She worked in the private industry in human resources for a number of years, and has worked as an academic advisor at Metropolitan Community College and UMKC. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading and cheering for our hometown teams. She is passionate about helping students finish their degrees, and is excited to work with KC Degrees students.

Ebony Hodges

Schedule an appointment
with Ebony



Ebony Hodges joined the KC Degrees initiative in December 2017, and works as a college success navigator. Ebony’s background includes 11 years of experience in administration within the United States Air Force. Her experience covers an array of roles such as advisor, coordinator and mentoring instructor. She has significant experience in client relations, advising career and education trails and community involvement. She served as president of the Junior Advisory Council where she led peers in self-building exploration. She also served as chairperson of the morale and engagement committee within the medical department, serving all ranks providing social and communal attainment. She has attained Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees and earned Airman Leadership School certification and mentorship instructor certification through the Center for Creative Leadership. Her enthusiasm and motivation toward education and propelling clients towards personal advancement will benefit the students who are a part of KC Degrees.

Justin Martin


Justin Martin joined KC Degrees as a College Success Navigator in February 2019. He was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. Justin earned his Associates Degree in Liberal Arts from Southwestern Community College in Creston, Iowa in 2015 and his Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Communication from University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2017. Justin will complete his master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from UMKC in this spring. Throughout his college experience, he was a collegiate athlete for 4 years and spent one-year coaching for the track and field team at UMKC. Following graduation Justin plans to use his Master’s degree to work in Student Affairs. His drive and passion for education and recent knowledge around the college-going process will benefit adults seeking to return to college and finish their degree.

Program Staff

Cedric Deadmon
Outreach and Advising Project Manager

Cedric Deadmon is the Outreach and Advising Project Manager for KC Degrees. Cedric joined Mid-America Regional Council in August 2016 and is a part of the workforce development and community development division at MARC. His work will focus on increasing postsecondary educational attainment in the region. Cedric brings 15 years of experience in higher education and economic and community development to MARC. Most recently, he served as the director for the Southwest Tennessee Reconnect Community in Jackson, Tennessee. In that role, he organized activities designed to increase college attainment rates among adults through partnerships with public and private colleges and universities, technical colleges and community colleges. Cedric was instrumental in launching successful college access initiatives in Tennessee and was part of a team recognized with an innovation award from the National Association of Development Organization in 2012 and 2013 for his work with the Regional Economic Development Initiative (REDI College Access Project) of Southwest Tennessee. Cedric has presented at statewide conferences on college completion, advocated for a student bill of rights, and worked with statewide college access initiatives including serving as a consultant for the Tennessee College Access and Success Network where he was a key figure in a recently launch pilot program entitled PATH: Preparing Adults for the Transition to Higher Education. He has a bachelor of arts from Lane College with a major in mass communications and a minor in sociology.

Erika Garcia-Reyes
Workforce Development Project Manager

Erika Garcia Reyes is the data analyst for KC Degrees. She is also the Workforce Development Project Manager for MARC's postsecondary attainment and workforce development efforts known as GradForce KC. In her role for GradForce KC, Erika is the author of the Education Asset Inventory Report, which captures all the education programs available in the Kansas City region in five industries – 1. Advanced Manufacturing, 2. Engineering & Architecture, 3. Information technology, 4. Finance and Insurance and 5. Life Sciences. In addition, Erika is the lead staff for the Regional Workforce Intelligence Network (RWIN), which engages economic development organizations, regional chambers of commerce, workforce investment boards, and selected educational institutions or departments that are focused on increasing talent to attract and retain businesses. RWIN provides coordination around comprehensive workforce challenges, with a particular emphasis on non-traditional talent, and provides its stakeholders with data for decision-making through a monthly newsletter, presentations and reports online at Erika was a research assistant at the School of Public Affairs and Administration during her undergraduate studies and received an Undergraduate Research Award from The Center for Undergraduate Research for her project “The Meanings of Justice”. In 2010 – 2013, Erika served as president for Latinos of Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization, where she mentored and guided first-generation college students in their educational and career goals. At the same time, she re-established the student leadership group at Johnson County Community College, Latinos United Now and Always (LUNA). She is bilingual in English and Spanish and has experience in community engagement and data analysis. She holds a master's degree in public administration from the University of Kansas. Erika joined the Mid-America Regional Council in 2016.

Anita Davis
Workforce Development Program Director

Anita Davis leads a number of workforce initiatives at Mid-America Regional Council, including the GradForce KC coalition; the Regional Workforce Intelligence Network; Talent-to-Industry Exchanges; KC Degrees; and the Human Capital component of KC Rising.

Anita brings more than 15 years of public and nonprofit management experience including responsibilities in all phases of operation and delivery of community and economic development programs and services. She has extensive experience in budget development, financial management and controls, organizational development, regulatory compliance, grantee procurement and management, and program evaluation.

Prior to MARC, Anita worked for the City and County of Denver, where she spent the past seven years focusing on workforce initiatives. Most notably, she started and led the quarterly Workforce Consortium consisting of approximately 30 unique Colorado agencies focused on poverty reduction, employment and self-sufficiency. She provided technical assistance and facilitation as well as strengthened collaboration and integration across organizations.

Anita is a Kansas City native and is excited to contribute to the continued growth and development of workforce programs in her hometown.