Alumnus Patrick Phillips, a.k.a. the Change Agent, is an award-winning speaker and the author of nine publications, including a book and modular eCourse designed to inspire and guide first-generation college students.
Phillips’ desire to show others they can succeed was shaped both by his childhood in South Central Los Angeles, an area notorious for its poverty and crime during his childhood, and an internship at Emory, where he worked among students of significant means. He now spends his time inspiring individuals to move past average and achieve self-actualization. More on that, below.
We caught up with Phillips on the launch of his new book on financial literacy for families. It is the newest in his “Little Jam” series, co-authored by his 7-year-old son, Jamison.
How did you move from caseworker to motivational teacher?
When I graduated with my M.S.W., I worked with the Department of Family and Child Services (DFCS). I was doing good work, but I was still looked at as part of the system that took families’ kids. I wanted to work with families in a way that wasn’t so negative. So I studied and became a certified educator.
When I was teaching, social work was constantly on my mind. I believe that you have to look at families, kids and people holistically. So, I started a mentoring program that paired young men at the school with older men from the community every Saturday. After a while, we had so many young men show up that we didn’t have enough adult men to mentor them. It was pretty amazing.
What philosophies guide you?
I always said I didn’t want to continue in the same situation I grew up in. I never would have thought I’d do the things that I now do. But I believe in self-advocacy. Why are you waiting on someone else to create what you need?
What led you to write inspirational books?
As a teacher, there were resources I wished I had that would address students’ social and emotional wellbeing, but they didn’t exist. I can’t tell you how many times I was given a curriculum to work off and could tell it wasn’t written by anybody in the community. So I decided, “Why not do it myself?”
My first book was “Decisions: A Young Man’s Guide to Avoiding the Traps.” When I worked at DFCS, they always gave me the young males because they said I worked well with them. I didn’t know if writing “Decisions” would make an impact, but then the schools started to purchase it. In fact, I’m speaking at high school next week where they’ve purchased a copy of the book for every student.
How did you begin publishing children’s books?
The first book I wrote with my son was originally meant for just the two of us, but now they’re in multiple public library systems and five bookstores around Atlanta. We’ve been told they’ve been important in people’s lives because they show a father and son relationship. They’re even more empowering to some kids because they see a black author. You can’t be it if you don’t see it.
I wrote “The Intentional Student” for first-generation college students because I was one myself. I often speak to college students who don’t even have checking accounts. I’m hoping my experience and guidance will help them.
What advice would you give to first-generation students?
I often tell students that I took myself too seriously in college, and my pride got in the way. I didn’t go to my master’s graduation because I didn’t have the money to pay for the graduation fee. At the time, I didn’t know they had resources on campus to help me.
But the teachers and professors at Georgia State want to see you succeed. So, I would say be aware of the resources available to you and don’t be afraid to ask for help. And try to enjoy your time in college!
Story by: Sumar Deen, Student (M.S. Clinical Mental Health Counseling, ’21)