Meet Jill Carey and Annie Warshaw
Jill and Annie are the co-founders of Mission Propelle, an after-school program that empowers elementary-age girls to know who they are, what they believe, and how to advocate for themselves. Mission Propelle integrates yoga and reading (100 original storybooks) to give girls to the tools to talk about their feelings and experience it through physical movement. The company is the brainchild of CEO Annie Warshaw, an award-winning teacher and women’s rights advocate. Co-founder Jill Carey comes from a media/journalism background, which she puts to use in each original illustration and website.
What don’t people know about you?
Annie: In third grade I started a club called Sunny Springs for which I deemed myself president. It was a social club with social justice initiatives. We made Hanukkah decorations, organized a recycling campaign, and played hopscotch. I used Sunny Springs as a platform to explore leadership. This eventually led me to write letters to Bill Clinton regarding my dissatisfaction with the number of women in leadership positions, more specifically the role of president.
Jill: As a kid, I wanted to be an artist. I took private art lessons and learned various mediums—pencil, charcoal, oil pastel, watercolor—but I loved ink and gouache most of all. As I aged, more and more adults discouraged me from following this path. They all sang the same song: you won’t make any money; your odds of success are slim; you can always do art as a hobby. As kids are prone to do, I listened. I abandoned the art dream. Thankfully, through Mission Propelle, I finally found my way back to this path. I’m illustrating children’s books and working with ink again! Because of my experience, I actively play cheerleader for budding artists.
What expression or saying do you love? (or which one do you hate?)
Annie: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare." – Audre Lorde
Lorde’s quote really resonates with me because I think people often view yoga as a self-indulgent act, however I view yoga as a means of social change. If everyone was able to connect with their vulnerabilities and emotions, we would have a much more loving, caring, and intentional society. Mission Propelle aims to take this quote and put it into action. We use yoga as a means of liberation; we empower girls to tap into their minds and bodies so that they can be the best version of themselves and a role model for other girls!
Jill: My first year of classroom teaching, I did what all first-year teachers do; I spent too much money on classroom supplies, I made too many lesson plans that already exist somewhere on the internet, and I spent too many nights updating bulletin boards long after the last janitor punched out. On the eve of winter break that year, a parent stopped in the classroom and asked for a moment alone. I invited her into the classroom with an uneasy feeling—the one you get when your loved one says "we need to talk.” To my surprise, she handed me a small frame inscribed with this prayer: God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. I live by these words. When I teach Mission Propelle, I always try to emphasize that courage and discernment are sister qualities. Courage without discernment creates dissonance; discernment without courage leads to inaction. Taken together, discernment and courage help you see when the moment’s right, and capitalize on it right then and there.
Who do you admire?
Annie: Gloria Steinem! At the ripe ol’ age of 79 Gloria is still changing the world through her humility, kindness, and activism. I recently had the pleasure of spending a day with her and she was all I could have ever hoped for and more. She recognizes the power of the individual and values every unique voice. When someone asked her, “Who do you think you will pass your torch to?” Gloria responded, “First, who said I want to pass my torch? Second, I don't want one person to have it, I want to use my torch to light so many other torches.”
Jill: I admire Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board President. She has advocated for progressive reforms since her childhood, tackling issues such as living wages and affordable housing. One interesting fact about President Preckwinkle is that she didn’t get elected for an office until the age of 44. Before that, she lost two aldermanic elections and spent nearly a decade off and on the campaign trail. She reminds me that there’s really no rush to accomplish your dreams—the idea of a “closing window” is a false notion. It’s possible to be an empowered change-maker your entire life, regardless of your season, station, or sex. President Preckwinkle recently pointed out, “We raise our boys differently. They are encouraged to be risk-takers. We need to teach girls to be assertive, to be risk takers.“
Who is your favorite character?
Annie: I love Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation. It is SO incredibly refreshing to watch a female protagonist on TV who is intelligent, funny, witty and a role model for all women. I love that Amy Poehler is not afraid to be a feminist on a public platform. I imagine a world in which girls can have access to characters like Leslie Knopp in their stories! We are trying to build a comedic duo (think Fey and Poehler) with our characters Dottie and Gertie.
Jill: My favorite literary character is The Little Prince (aka Le Petit Prince). Although the book is ostensibly for children, it’s a profound critique of adult ways. I love how the Little Prince approaches confusing things with a spirit of wonder and questioning. He actually he reminds me a bit of Dottie—the main character in the Mission Propelle literature. Dottie is curious, smart, and bold. She’s always marveling at the world around her and seeking to understand. She resonates with the girls we teach because she’s a real girl, not a caricature of a girl.
What is your hidden talent?
Annie: In middle school and high school I was in band and actually was pretty good (best in the county, ooh lala). At the time I was super embarrassed but I have reconciled this and have worked to empower girls with my story through the eyes of our character Dottie. Dottie plays trombone and she rocks!
Jill: My hidden talent is listening. This is truly a hidden talent, because nobody’s ever like, "Look at that young woman! The one right there! She is doing some impressive listening!” But in all seriousness, I’m good at giving my full attention to people and really soaking up their words and body language. This also makes me strangely intuitive; I have a strong track record of knowing people’s needs and meeting them before they even surface.