Single Stop Stories: Phillip

Phillip David Ellison

Phillip is a former Single Stop client and a community leader who has continued to flourish since graduating from Hostos Community College.

As a teenager growing up in New York City, Phillip’s household slipped quickly into hard times with the unexpected death of his father, followed shortly by his mother losing her job. Phillip contributed as best he could to support their family, but nothing was the same. He recalls it as the most trying time in his life. However, he knew that an education was vital to improve the circumstances for him and his mother.

In 2006, Phillip attended Penn State University saddled with debts from expenses not covered by assistance programs. To fill the gaps he took odd-jobs and attended school on-and-off before prematurely exiting college in 2008. In order to pay off his student debt, Phillip worked in construction, and as a bus boy in a restaurant, before working with youth in his community at Harlem Children’s Zone. Immediately after his work at Harlem Children’s Zone, he began a year of service with City Year serving 1,700 community service hours as an AmeriCorps member in the South Bronx. He coordinated literacy training for elementary school students, organized volunteers for service days, and even emceed the annual City Year Gala that raised almost $1 million dollars. During this time, Phillip developed valuable skills while giving back to his community. As he ended his year of service, Mayor Bloomberg’s Department of Service and AmeriCorps selected him to be a Summer Associate with Green City Force, a start-up national service organization that trains urban 17-24 year olds for the green economy and green service in New York City.

In 2010, he enrolled at Hostos Community College of the City University of New York (CUNY) but still had to manage financial instability. He struggled to balance his schoolwork with part-time jobs in education, as he paid for community college and made minimum payments towards Penn State University. At the Hostos, he discovered a financial planning clinic operated by the school’s Single Stop site. There he learned the fundamentals to building financial security and heard about the resources available for students in circumstances like his own. Single Stop Coordinators connected him to SNAP benefits for food assistance, and financial planning counselors. The services helped Phillip make real progress in his second attempt at school.

With access to critical resources and opportunity, Phillip also found the means to contribute positively to his campus community. He joined Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, became a CUNY Student Government Senator and a member of the Hostos Honors Program. Now Phillip is completing a dual bachelor’s degree of arts in Africana Studies and History with a minor in Entrepreneurial Leadership at the Tufts Gordon Institute for Engineering Management. While at Tufts, he was selected as a Tisch Scholar of Active Citizenship and Public Service. He was invited to speak on his leadership experience, and sat on a panel advocating for the expansion of national service along with Four Star Army General Stanley McCrystal. After Tufts, Phillip aims to leverage  his skills to develop innovative solutions for under-resourced communities and families who struggle through obstacles similar to that of his own background. Recently, along with a fellow Hostos/Tufts alumnus and fellow City Year alumnae, Phillip launched ULink, a tech-enabled education advising service. Smarter in the City, a tech incubator for entrepreneurs of color in Boston, has also accepted ULink into its Fall 2015 cohort.

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Posted on September 1st, 2015 in Single Stop Stories

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