With thousands of people striving to come together to end modern slavery, there is one individual that has been an unintentional inspiration. Two thousand miles away from the Dressember office there resides a passionate ball of fire by the name of Alissa Pollard. Alissa also goes by Ali and lives in Madison, Wisconsin. She may be a student (who occasionally eats more than the required amount of cookie dough), but she has a desire to change lives one uncomfortable outfit at a time.
Ali grew up in a more male-dominated environment, which amplified the inclination to be a bit more of a tomboy. Her heart for sports grew more and more throughout her childhood, and she held a desire to eventually become an Olympic ski jumper from a young age. There may have been a few mother-daughter conversations that were mostly compromises of what Ali was allowed to wear; the tug-of-war between “sporty” and “girly” was one particular repeated battle.
Ali quickly learned that her greatest desires shifted from physical goals to be more focused on ethics. “Ski jumping was good to push myself, but I wanted to reach out to others.” A small seed of knowledge was planted one day when Ali heard about the reality of human trafficking in Madison, Wisconsin. She experienced a shocking sense of awareness of what was going on in her backyard.
Ali had an incredible opportunity to stand up and challenge her passion for advocacy when she was presented with an assignment to report on any local issue. Her teacher failed her topic proposal because he didn't believe that human trafficking was a local issue. However, Ali was determined to prove him wrong. She wanted to continue her research and agreed that if she did fail the overall project, then she was willing to accept the academic consequences.
After her submission of the report, Ali's teacher approached her and apologized. She was able to reach someone who had no prior knowledge about the relevance of human trafficking. That teacher, along with millions of other people, had believed that it is more of a global issue and not a local one. Education and awareness eliminate the gap between ignorance and assumption. Ali admitted that she didn’t realize how powerful educating people could be, but has since gained a passion for it.
"Ski jumping was good to push myself, but I wanted to reach out to others."
Ali discovered Dressember through an acquaintance on social media. When she read on the Dressember website, ”We are going to use fashion to stop human trafficking,” Ali’s immediate response was, "Fashion doesn't matter." Thanks to their diligence in advocating and posting content that exposed the epidemic that exists, Ali couldn’t help but gravitate toward Dressember regardless. The following year, Ali wanted to participate; the only drawback was that she didn't own any dresses. Her first attempt may not have been very fashion-forward, but mixing feminine patterns with sporty style started the conversation about why she was dressing in a specific way.
Ali learned that fashion does matter because it can create a lot of awareness and can be a powerful tool for change. Ali loves that Dressember has created a ripple effect in establishing a community. Being able to connect with individuals who share a similar passion for advocacy in abolishing human trafficking is encouraging and amplifies the movement that much more.
"It doesn't take a fashionista to make an impact. It takes courage to fight for what you believe in and stand up to ignorance."
Her first year participating in Dressember may have been a shot in the dark, navigating through her wardrobe in uncertainty and awkwardness, but Ali never gave up. Ali hopes to make an impact on human rights and wants to fight a broken system by educating society. It doesn't take a fashionista to make an impact. It takes courage to fight for what you believe in and stand up to ignorance. Growth comes from learning and sometimes a little discomfort. Since I have had the privilege of getting to know Ali a little bit more, I feel incredibly inspired by her tenacity and drive for educating others and taking risks. She was able to set aside her comfort and do something different with even just her wardrobe. I am incredibly excited to see the impact she will make in Madison, Wisconsin this year with Dressember and beyond.
About the Author
Courtney is an avid reader, sushi-fiend, and coffee addict. She lives in the mountains of San Bernardino where she works as a reservation specialist at a camp. Her life experiences have ignited a passion to end human trafficking even if it’s one dress at a time. She enjoys hardcore shows, playing board games, and maintaining her bullet journal one week at a time.