Meet Kennedy Principal Felicia Phillips
Kennedy High seniors and yearbook students, Rasheed Leggett and Michelle Yanez, recently interviewed our new principal, Felicia Phillips, about how she went from Kennedy High student to Kennedy High principal. Here’s what she had to say:
Q: What Year Did you graduate?
A: I graduated in 1984 so I’ll be celebrating my 35th class reunion next fall!
Q: Can you describe what Kennedy was like when you were here?
A: Oh wow. Kennedy was an amazing place. We (Kennedy) had something called Modular Scheduling in which students didn’t have every class every day. It’s not quite the same schedule we have today. The school itself was different. In the 500 building, we had culinary arts classes, and home economics. In the 600 building, we had woodshop, auto shop, and welding. Kennedy was just a really vibrant and diverse place. The demographics were just a little different than now because Kennedy used to be predominantly African American. We had students from all over coming to Kennedy. Kennedy was a great school that had wonderful teachers to push us to do great things and I loved coming here every day!
Q: Did it ever cross your mind as a student at Kennedy that you’d someday be principal?
A: No way! When I left here (Kennedy) my goal was to become an engineer thanks to a wonderful teacher named Mrs. Irving. She introduced me to engineering and that’s what I thought I was going to do for the rest of my career. I didn’t know I was going to be a teacher, much less a principal, much less at Kennedy! I had no idea.
Q: What made you want to become a principal?
A: Good question! I graduated from college and got a job in Atlanta. I worked in corporate America but I always had an interest in helping people. The company I worked for would always go to an elementary school and we would help kids learn how to read, and I would do various activities helping children. When I participated in all of these activities, it reminded me of my senior year at Kennedy when I would volunteer to help kids at King Elementary. Over time as I got older and kept helping youth, I decided to leave my job that made a lot of money, and took a 40 percent pay cut to learn how to become a teacher. I felt like helping build the next generation of leaders and learners was very important.
Q: What extracurricular activities were you involved in at the K?
A: I was an athlete so I played volleyball for 4 years, softball for 3 years, and basketball for 1 year. I was also in Student Government as I was on the Junior Class Leadership Team. I ran for Student Government Association President and lost so I became secretary instead. I also participated in a program called MESA ( Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement.) and in that program I was exposed to a lot of different careers.
Q: Did you have any personal struggles getting through high school life?
A: In general no. I was really blessed as I did well in school, and I had a lot of support from family and teachers at Kennedy. As I’ve gotten older and became an educator, I’ve realized that my experience isn’t everyone else’s experience. As the principal of this school, I’m trying to make sure that our teachers understand that a lot of the students who come here today are really thriving in spite of lots of other things that are going on in their lives. We have to be good about supporting every student regardless of what’s going on.
Q: What was life like at Harvard?
A: It’s crazy being around the best and brightest minds in the world! I thought I was rockin’ it when I was here at Kennedy but when I got to Harvard, I got my feelings hurt. I was a big fish at Kennedy but I was a little fish at Harvard. Being around the best and brightest is really inspiring but also really competitive. I’m thankful for the opportunity because I learned so much that I would’ve never known about while staying here (Richmond). There were so many new things I got to learn about and do. It really expanded my horizons a lot!
Q: Do you have any advice for current Eagles who want to further their education?
A: I want students to develop the habits of a scholar. Those habits include being independent learners and becoming critical thinkers! Students have to learn because they want to learn, not because the teacher is giving you a grade. I want students to take the information they have and think about how to use that information to make decisions on how they’re going to live their life.