Meet Felicia Phillips, Principal of Kennedy High School


Tell us about your job and your background.

I am the principal at Kennedy High School. I actually am a graduate of Kennedy High myself, class of 1984. I had a passion for science, so after high school I attended Harvard University and studied engineering. After graduation, I worked in the telecommunications industry before realizing my calling to be a teacher. I feel very humbled and proud to return to my hometown to lead the school that helped me become the person I am today.

What inspired you to become an educator?

Teaching has been an ever-present theme in my life. While I was in high school, one of the most impactful experiences was volunteering at Martin Luther King Elementary tutoring fifth graders in math. After high school, I spent the summer before college working as an intern at Chevron’s Richmond Technology Center as part of the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) Summer Jobs program doing research on solar cells. This was an amazing opportunity that further solidified my love of engineering and math.

How is it being back at Kennedy?

I realized that I could give back to the school that gave me so much and I thought, why not? Kennedy High has certainly changed a lot and I am committed to continue the school’s ascent back to a place of pride. There is great potential on this campus to grow and raise leaders.

Tell us about some of your ideas for the school year.

Our vision is to make Kennedy the heartbeat of the south Richmond community. We want it to be the place where parents are proud to send their children, where teachers and staff want to work and where students want to learn. We have a lot of great partnerships that help us achieve that goal. Chevron provides STEM education opportunities to our students and the YMCA of the East Bay provides after school programs and health services.

What career advice would you give to students?

The one thing I say to our students is that we want them to develop the habits of a scholar. They need to attend school every day, on time and be ready to learn. We have an obligation to expose our students to as many career and college opportunities as possible. I tell them to find an area of study they are passionate about, develop good study habits and get involved outside of the classroom. We want students to be fearless in how they explore those interest areas.

How can community members support students?

We are always looking for ways to showcase the great work that is happening here and for the community to engage with us in as many ways as possible. We can always use more volunteers. We rely on the expertise and advice of our community to participate in our annual college and career days.

What do you love about Richmond?

The people here are so genuine. I’m taken with the many stories of how folks landed in Richmond, be it African Americans who can trace their arrival in Richmond to WWII activities, or people who are new who have intentionally chosen Richmond because this is the City of Pride and Purpose – the arrival stories are so rich. There are opportunities to enjoy all of the things that this community has to offer – from 23rd Street offerings to Point Molate nature hikes to the Cinco de Mayo and Juneteenth festivals – there are a lot of great things happening here that are open to everybody.