Affectionately known as “Principal Oprah,” Lisa Phillips passes out scholarships and opportunities to her Cass Tech students like billionaire Winfrey once passed out gifts to her TV studio audience.
She was hired as principal in August 2010. Phillips taught English at Cass from 1982-1998 and received a Teacher of the Year Award from Newsweek magazine in 1998. She taught many notable alumni including businesswoman and 1993 Miss USA Kenya Moore. Moore, a regular cast member on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” returned to Cass with a $20,000 donation to the Detroit Public Schools Foundation in 2015. Phillips even made a cameo on the show.
In March 2017, the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals awarded Phillips the title of Principal of the Year for the state of Michigan. She will be competing for the national title in September.
Phillips always reminds students that when she is not in the building, she is out making moves for her students. As a senior at Cass Tech, I have witnessed the opportunities she affords students.
Cass Tech was the first high school in Detroit to implement the International Baccalaureate Program. The rigorous courses push students to think more critically and help prepare them for college.
In 2015, Phillips announced that the Ilitch Companies would partner with Cass Tech by awarding 24 students paid corporate internships. As one of the interns for the past two summers, I learned how to work in the corporate world and make relationships that will be beneficial in the future.
Last school year, Phillips created a special Open House for seniors in need of assistance for college. She thought about how students graduate from high school without knowing how they would pay for certain dorm necessities, so she started the Lisa Phillips Open House Initiative to pair students with sponsors who are willing to provide them with bedding, laptops, ironing boards, and other everyday items for college. Nearly 200 seniors benefited from this last year, and Phillips hopes the program will continue for years to come.
Wayne County Community College also partners with Cass Tech, allowing students to graduate with an associate’s degree as a senior in high school.
“One of my initiatives was to create a partnership with WCCCD and Cass Tech and I’m so proud of the success,” Phillips said.
In June, 25 seniors will graduate from the program, bringing the total to 100 over the last four years.
Phillips has helped rank Cass Technical High School in the top 5 percent of all high schools in the state of Michigan. Furthermore, she continues to go above and beyond for her students, providing opportunities for them to record in hip-hop artist Big Sean’s Infinite Possibilities Studio, donated by him and housed inside of Cass Tech.
Another special partnership Phillips initiated was the Doctors of Tomorrow program. This allows ninth graders who are interested in the medical field to spend one day a month at the University of Michigan’s Medical School, experiencing hands-on activities in every field of medicine under the supervision of senior medical students.
“I love making kids’ dreams come true, and this program affords students a snapshot view of life in one of the most prestigious medical schools in the nation,” said Phillips.
“The success of every program that I initiated over the last seven years was only successful due to the overwhelming support of alumni, parents, students, faculty, and I’m truly blessed to give my students amazing opportunities,” she said.