Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Tazz Phillips: A troubled past didn't hold him back

Tazz Phillips
Tazz Phillips is the picture of success. He graduated from Grossmont College with a near-perfect grade point average, then went on to graduate with honors from San Diego State University. He’ll be starting at the police academy soon on his path to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a police officer.

His accomplishments are all the more remarkable when Phillips describes his tumultuous childhood that included parents who were drug addicts and alcoholics, five years in foster care, and two years of homelessness.Phillips said he always had the goal of bettering his life, and he never wavered from it no matter what was happening to him.

“It’s just effort and determination,” he said. “You’ve got to have the grit to do something. You have to disregard the negativity in your life.”

Phillips, a 22-year-old El Cajon resident, recently spoke to a group of students from Grossmont Union High School District schools who were visiting Grossmont College to learn more about the advantages of attending the college. The high school students’ visit was organized through the East County Education Alliance, the partnership between the high schools and the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District to inspire more students to attend college and to provide a seamless path for them on their education journey. More than 370 students from six East County high schools visited Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges.

Phillips said he and his sister were placed in foster care when he was three years old because of his parents’ continual battles with drugs and alcohol. He remained in foster care until he was 8 years old, living with three foster families during that time and changing schools every time he was placed with a new family.

He then lived with his grandmother for four years, including two years in which the family was homeless, living out of their car, a storage unit, or a hotel room.Phillips’ mother regained custody of him when he was 12 years old, but relapsed twice within the six years he was with her.

Following one relapse, he lived with a family member in South Carolina so he wouldn’t have to return to the foster care system. Despite all the turmoil in his life, Phillips said he always did well in school. “I’ve seen the life I was going to live if I strayed from the path,” he said. “I didn’t let anything get in the way.”
Tazz Phillips

He graduated with honors from Granite Hills High School, then came to Grossmont College in fall 2014. He received numerous academic recognitions during his time at Grossmont, and had a near-perfect 3.9 grade point average when he graduated in 2016.

“Grossmont gives you everything you want. You just have to not be afraid to ask any questions,” Phillips said. “It gives you the tools to be successful. The best thing is you get to build a relationship with your professors because the classes are smaller.”

He transferred to San Diego State University, where he graduated magna cum laude and received his degree in criminal justice this year. Phillips will soon begin attending the police academy at Southwestern College.

Even though he acknowledges that it’s become a cliché, Phillips said he wants to become a police officer so he can help people.

“I want to help kids who were in my same situation,” he said. “I know I was one bad day away from not leading the life that I’m leading now.”