Former Highland Park High School student plans to return to Topeka to teach

D’Andre Phillips, a former student body president at Highland Park High School, now attends Pittsburg State and plans to return to Topeka to teach after graduating. (2016 file photo/The Capital-Journal)

A decorated Highland Park High School graduate pursuing a degree at Pittsburg State University has been offered an intent to hire by Topeka Unified School District 501, the district said in a news release Friday.


As a senior, D’Andre Phillips was among four HPHS students to go with superintendent Tiffany Anderson in 2016 to a national conference on children and homelessness. He also participated in the filming of “Undercover High,” a series that debuted Tuesday on A&E, spotlighting student life at HPHS with actors who were embedded at the school.

In a panel discussion Monday after a screening of the show’s pilot episode, Phillips said he experienced poverty and homelessness at an early age, sometimes distracting himself from being hungry by participating in after-school activities.

He credited school administrators and teachers for trying to make sure his needs were being met.

His experiences, the district said in the news release, has inspired him to become a teacher.

“I know there are students who face the same struggles in life that I have overcome,” Phillips said. “I want to be that person who can help them overcome whatever obstacles life may put in front of them. I want teenagers to know that life is what you make it and not the circumstances you are faced with.”

Phillips was a student body president at HPHS, maintained a 4.0 GPA and led the JROTC program, the news release said.

He received a full-ride scholarship and plans to return to Topeka after he graduates.

“It is not every day you met a student like D’Andre,” said Larry Robbins, deputy superintendent of operations for USD 501. “I had the privilege of serving as his mentor, and to see the success he has created for himself when the odds were against him, you know he will do great things in life. He will be a teacher who can reach students who need it the most.”