Phillip McClure lived right down the street from Outreach Community Center (OCC) for the majority of his life. Occasionally, his family went to food drives at the center—sometimes to donate, sometimes to receive what they couldn’t afford. However, Phillip himself didn’t get involved at OCC until his junior year in high school.

Phillip was a bright student. With exceptional grades, he was hoping to attend college. However, as the first person in his family to “go away” to college, he didn’t know where to begin.

In search of some direction, Phillip thought of OCC. “They were just part of the community, really visible, and just down the street,” Phillip said.  With high hopes, Phillip joined the College Opportunity Program (COP). He came in looking for some college preparation help, and came out with so much more.

“How I was supposed to write all the essays, and pay for everything, and how and where I could find scholarships? The program was very helpful in helping me navigate through all that, and providing a little bit of guidance when my parents couldn’t,” Phillip said.

Through COP, Phillip was able to tackle studying for the ACT, writing college essays, filling out the FAFSA form and applying to scholarships. “Help with college and scholarships is what has proven to be invaluable in the end,” Phillip said.

After two years in COP, Phillip was accepted into Duke University. In the last 16 years, Phillip has been the only student from the Wheaton area to attend Duke.

One of the experiences that Phillip is most grateful for from his time at OCC has been his relationship with Gigi Nyesoah, COP coordinator, who became a mentor to him. “I meet with Gigi at OCC whenever I come back here. She is someone who has stuck with me the entirety of this whole transition between high school to college and now from college to the real world. She’s been someone who helps me reflect after a long stretch of being at school,” Phillip said. He feels that Gigi has been a guide to him, emotionally, spiritually and mentally.

COP also helped Phillip find an internship. The summer after his junior year in high school, he worked as an office assistant at Outreach’s administrative offices. The next summer, he applied for and was chosen to be a marketing assistant at Outreach. While he laughs as he remembers that first office assistant job, and the seemingly endless amount of paper he was tasked with shredding, Phillip truly credits COP for his career success through the years and looking into his future.

Phillip excelled at Duke. Along with a strong academic performance, he was involved in a selective living group, a member of the First Year Advisory Council Board and the Undergraduate Council Board, on the Duke University Improv Team, directed a production, was the lead in the fall play and was the Blue Devil, the school’s mascot. Most importantly, Philip learned how to step out of his comfort zone, meet new people and grasp onto new opportunities.

Phillip graduated from Duke University in Spring 2016 with a major in English, a minor in economics and a certificate in journalism and media studies. He feels blessed with the opportunities, both financially and otherwise, that he has been provided with through Outreach. “I’ve graduated university with minimal loans because of all the help I’ve received,” Phillip said.

Post-college, Phillip landed a job in the ACE Marketing Program at Microsoft. In addition to marketing, he says that he feels a call to comedy and theater, and hopes to pursue one or both of these things in his future.