Alicia Moss, a teacher at J.M. Alexander Middle, tells her students to dream big, work hard, pace themselves, believe in their abilities and not let obstacles deter them from their goals. She has been following her own advice to meet an ambitious goal in July.
Moss has trained almost a year to climb Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness for women and girls facing homelessness. At about 19,340 feet it is Africa's tallest mountain and the largest freestanding mountain rise in the world.
Moss' goal is to raise $100,000 to build a tiny-home community. Last year, she met a woman and her two children, who were homeless and living in Charlotte's Tent City encampment. She and a few other women raised $10,000 for the family. That was the catalyst for her new venture.
"I want my life to matter and to get outside of my comfort zone," said Moss. "I'd never hiked before. I was at a point in my life, a sort of crossroads, where I wanted to do something for myself and tie it to supporting women and girls. The climb helps me meet both goals."
Although hiking was an unfamiliar activity, being an advocate for positive body image and self-care was in her wheelhouse. Moss recognizes people may see self-care as a luxury, especially when they don't have the basic needs.
"Everyone needs food, clothing and shelter. If those needs are not being met, it is hard to focus on anything else," said Moss. "I want women to know that self-care is about creating a life you don't want to escape. It's not all about getting pedicures, facials and massages. It includes physical and mental health, too."
Moss, who has three daughters and has fostered five more, founded "The Body Confidence Movement" in 2017. She teaches workshops and creates content focusing on body positivity.
"Part of my journey is so other women can see my growth. I want them to see that change takes one step at a time," said Moss. "I never expected to be in the best shape of my life physically and mentally. Even my students noticed. One student said, 'Miss, you're getting muscle, and your neck is thinner.' I didn't start this journey for that result, but I feel fitter."
Moss' preparation began with simple group hikes. Every two weeks, the trails would be more difficult. She learned to navigate the trails and carry more weight in her backpack. Soon two miles became five, seven and 12. She's incorporated swimming, CrossFit, a nutritionist and a sports medicine doctor to round out her training.
Only about 40 percent of those who climb Mount Kilimanjaro reach the summit. Moss is going slow and steady. She and her travel group are scheduled to hike the eight-day Lemosho route, which is the most scenic.
"I put in the work to make it to the summit. If I don't make it, then I can go back and try it again," said Moss.
To hear more from Moss about her journey, listen to the podcast below.