A New Vision for Literacy
Melissa Warren takes the lead at Brunswick County Literacy Council.
COVID-19 restrictions won’t deter Melissa Warren. She accepted the position of executive director of Brunswick County Literacy Council (BCLC) in January and despite mandated limitations, she aims to increase the council’s visibility so the entire county knows how it helps residents.
“The goal of the Literacy Council is to teach people how to read and to prepare them for better paying jobs,” Warren says.
“Education is going to empower them to do anything they want to do.”
Challenges persist, though. The English as a Second Language program at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church in Shallotte and the program at the Brunswick County Detention Center in Bolivia were suspended a year ago. Warren fears the gains students made may be lost, but program director Sue Railing is in contact with personnel at those locations and ready to start again as soon as they can.
“It’s intimidating to come to the office and ask for help,” Warren says. “I want to encourage people to seek help.”
Warren has redesigned the council’s website to make it interactive so people can fill out a questionnaire. That way the council can contact those who seek help.
“I want to pull people in and make it easier for them to contact us,” she says.
Ricky Skorny, president of the BCLC board, is confident in Warren’s abilities.
“She has drive, is a self-starter, knowledgeable about the Literacy Council and understands the programs,” he says. “We’ve talked about strategies and improving our presence. We want people to know about us.”
Warren says she’s encouraged that parents whose children have virtual classes are contacting the council for assistance so they can help their children with homework, specifically in reading and math.
“I’m really passionate about education and especially literacy because I know first-hand what education does for a person,” she says.
Warren grew up in Elkview, West Virginia, just outside of Charleston. She took computer classes in high school with no intention of going to college because she wasn’t expected to follow that route. After she and her identical twin, Cassy, graduated, her family moved to Durham. Warren was hired as a receptionist at a medical software company. After a few months, she was asked to do data entry, and the supervisors questioned why she wasn’t in college.
She admitted she didn’t know how to apply and didn’t have the money, but with encouragement, she investigated, asked for direction and when she was 20, entered UNC-Greensboro, not sure what course to follow. An avid reader and lover of literature, she chose to major in English. When her boyfriend, Bill Warren, a software engineer and professional drummer, moved to Wilmington, she transferred to UNCW.
The couple married, and Warren earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 2004. She earned a master’s degree in liberal studies from UNCW in 2016 and explains that her sister and her brother also put themselves through college and earned degrees.
Warren believes her job in the engineered wood products division of Louisiana-Pacific Corp. in Nashville prepared her for taking the reins at the Literacy Council. “I was product manager and had a huge budget,” she says. She developed a marketing and branding plan with a $2.9 million budget. Her most successful marketing strategy she says is that she “launched a $150 million capital project in the middle of the recession” for Louisiana-Pacific.
“I want a neat branding package to make the council more attractive and bring out our presence in the community,” she says.
“She’s wonderful,” says BCLC board member Cathy McGill. “She’s very organized and very professional. It’s fabulous what she’s doing with the website. Her skill set will give us greater social presence. She will represent the organization well.”
When Warren resigned from Louisiana-Pacific in 2010, she returned to Wilmington and began a freelance writing career. She says by writing locally, she has met many wonderful people, which led to her new position.
“All my life I wanted to be a writer,” she says, adding that she will continue freelance writing where she can.
“She has leadership talent,” Skorny says. “We have to get past COVID. The needs are there.”
The Warrens live in Sunset Beach with Bear, their 110-pound shelter mix.
Are you interested in improving your reading? Or are you interested in tutoring others?
Contact Brunswick County Literacy Council
282 Ocean Highway E., Supply