2021 – Alyssa Phillips
Alyssa K. Phillips, a 2017 graduate of the University of Notre Dame Law School, is already making a remarkable impact in her legal career as an Education Staff Attorney at Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. She advocates and provides legal assistance for the educational rights of homeless students in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs through outreach, community education, and direct representation.
Alyssa’s passion for equitable education stems from her friendship with a peer experiencing homelessness who was on the same honors track as her during junior high. The friend’s mother struggled with substance abuse, and she and her four younger siblings were bounced to many different houses. As school progressed, Alyssa continued to do well in her classes while her friend began failing. With unreliable transportation, her friend missed school frequently, and her often unhealthy living conditions left her ill. She was the sole provider for her siblings and unable to obtain a driver’s license because she did not have a stable address. By the end of high school, Alyssa graduated and was off to college while her friend had failed too many classes to graduate.
Alyssa’s passion was fueled further by the negative impact the COVID-19 Pandemic had on many students experiencing homelessness. During the pandemic, Alyssa had to think creatively on how to reach the most vulnerable students. As a result, she facilitated eight Facebook Live sessions around the rights of homeless families to education, and public benefits. Alyssa also assisted homeless shelters with gaining access to Wi-Fi, school fee waivers, and other educational rights information. While this year was incredibly challenging, Alyssa says she has never been more confident of her decision to work public interest law.