Women Changing the World

What better way to kick off the new year than with a new monthly section here on Stylaphile celebrating women who are changing the world? Each month, I will ask 10 simple questions of women who are doing extraordinary things in their community.

And what better woman to start with than my very best friend in the whole wide world? Missy and I have been BFFs since the sixth grade. We grew up together in the tiny little town of Gadsden, Alabama and I can honestly say that if it were not for her friendship, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. She is the funniest, most dedicated and loving person I’ve ever known. And she’s changing the world though her work at The Literacy Council.

Here’s her story…

Women Changing the World

Missy Moon-Burchart, The Literacy Council

Missy in her downtown Birmingham office

1. What is it exactly that you do?

My title is vice president of communications and development. How does that actually translate to my day-to-day responsibilities? In a small, but growing nonprofit, it’s a long laundry list, with everything from writing grants to communications strategies, from donor relations to developing communications materials. I’m incredibly lucky to be part of an amazing team of professionals who are all dedicated to helping change lives. We all work together and do whatever is needed to make sure the agency succeeds. If the agency is succeeding, that means the people we serve are succeeding.

2.  What is the most rewarding thing about your job?

The people we serve. Since we started our in-house program in 2012, I’ve gotten to know the learners who come to our office for tutoring. It will sound cliché, but I’ve actually laughed with some of our learners and cried with others. Celebrating their own personal successes is the best part. I see these folks when they first come to The Literacy Council and how their lives change. They actually physically transform. It’s the woman who once felt defeated that now holds her head a little higher each time she comes back because she’s improving not only her reading skills, but her overall life. If we were speaking in fashion terms, I would say that confidence is your best accessory and it looks so good on our learners. When you watch someone work really hard for what they want, it’s rewarding to see that person reach their goals. It’s what makes me get up in the morning and come to work every single day.

 3. What is the most challenging thing about your job?

Getting people to understand the struggle that low-literate adults face. It’s tough if you’ve never struggled to read. Imagine your everyday life. You check your phone, read the paper, and send an email or text a friend or colleague…all of this before you even leave your house. This world is foreign to our learners because they can’t read well. They can’t fill out a job application. They can’t help their children with homework. They can’t even read the label on a prescription bottle. But these folks are tough and tenacious. Our learners set goals for themselves and work hard to achieve them.

4.  What is your daily “uniform” for work? What do you wear that gives you confidence?

It depends on the day. If I’m just going to be working in the office all day, I dress casual. Jeans,  Converse sneakers, soft sweaters…basic comfort clothes. On the days I need to dress up a bit, I lean towards sweater sets and skirts. I’m not really a corporate suit kind of girl. Been there, done that. In the photo above, I’m wearing an Eileen Fisher cardigan, Ann Taylor Loft tank-top, J. Jill skirt, Stuart Weitzman boots and a Shinola watch.

5.  Who are your favorite designers and why?

Oh my… I’m not quite the fashionista I once was. I think this happened somewhere during my college days when I traded in my blazers and pumps for Grateful Dead t-shirts and Birkenstocks. I call it my granola/grunge phase. But I’ll give it a try.

Accessories are my weakness. Bags, shoes and watches to be specific. Bags have always been a weak spot. I like clean, simple, and BIG. I love Kate Spade and Tory Burch. And Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James line, too. I like anything timeless. I still have a Gucci bag that my parents gave me in high school.

Because I consider Detroit my other hometown, I love what Shinola has done with watches. Unique and different, yet strong – much like the city that inspires them. When it comes to clothes, I’ll always love Ralph Lauren. Again, clean and classic but he incorporates something fun and funky, too.

 6.  What frustrates you the most about the fashion industry?

The obsession with making everything smaller and more expensive. Why? Why do I need to make six figures and be a size six to be well dressed and feel good about myself? UGH!

7.  What frustrates you the most about the world in general?

Lack of empathy frustrates me. People who refuse to see another person’s point of view and live only in absolutes.

8.     What advice would you offer to young girls today?

Enjoy your journey. It won’t always go in the direction you planned, and at times it will become messy and a bit scary. My current life looks nothing like the life I planned at 25, but in so many ways it’s better. Don’t be so focused on what you think your path should be that you miss something incredible along the way. Appreciate your mistakes as much as your successes. Mistakes can teach us great lessons in the most unexpected ways. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Don’t let the world define you. Be brave. Be yourself.

9.     Who are some of the strong female role models in your life?

I am incredibly blessed to have SO many strong female role models in my life.

My mom. She was brave, smart, and fiercely loyal as a wife, a mother and a friend. I loved her tenacity. Give her a challenge and she would always find a way to solve it.

My teachers. From my dance teacher Kay Smith-Foster to my chemistry teacher Brenda Ford Carpenter, these ladies gave of themselves. Their lessons went beyond their area of expertise to simple life lessons that have stayed with me to this day. They cared. Perhaps that is the greatest thing they taught me. To care.

My girlfriends. The way they live their lives. The way they handle adversity and accomplishment. They teach me. They inspire me.

 10.  What is your ultimate goal when it comes to changing the world?

WOW! Ultimate goal? That’s tough. Less fear and hatred. More empathy, equality, and compassion. I do believe each of us has the ability to change the world around us in our own ways. So don’t look at it as something huge and insurmountable. Do everything you can to make the world a better place. Listen to Ghandi and be the change you wish to see in the world.

Want to help Missy help even more people learn how to read? Give the gift of literacy!

Click here to make a tax-deductible contribution to The Literacy Council.

Any amount is beneficial to the organization.

(Now YOU’RE changing the world.)