‘You are somebody’: Cass Tech Principal Lisa Phillips works to empower students

Lisa Phillips has spent 35 years as an educator

DETROIT – Lisa Phillips is the principal of Cass Technical High School in Detroit.

Phillips has spent 35 years as an educator. She has worked with students from all walks of life.

“I don’t live and wear titles or positions. I’m just Lisa Phillips. A person who likes to help,” Phillips said.

Phillips is the first Black woman to be awarded Principal of the Year in Michigan. She credits her decades of success to her role model, her mother, Naomi Bates.

READ: 8 powerful quotes for Black History Month

When Phillips was a little girl her mother moved them from Kentucky to Detroit to become a nurse. Phillips said she was brimming with pride when her single mother bought their first home on her own.

“You cannot forget your history and those who’ve been through the struggle. Whenever I do something for Black history, I bring in the pros,” Phillips said.

Phillips said she remembers what it was like to be discounted for her complexion and overlooked in school.

“Facing discrimination in the classroom has really been my anchor. To say that I will never allow any student to suffer, find someone you trust and let them know how you’re feeling because I didn’t,” Phillips said.

READ: Underground Railroad in Detroit: Important people, sites you might not know

Phillips’ students said that she has redefined education.

“She values grades, she values test scores ... But she also understands the need to prioritize volunteering and community service,” Cass Tech senior Lamont Satchel said.

Even though her daily interactions with her students have gone virtual, her message is unwavering.

“No matter how you look, what size you are, your complexion, your hair -- Know who you are inside. You are somebody,” Phillips said.

READ: More Black History Month coverage

Below is a video with Lisa Phillips celebrating Black History Month from 2019.

About the Authors: