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Phillips High School Senior Passes the $1 Million Mark in College Scholarships

29 November 2023

Desean has excelled as both a student and an athlete. 

Phillips Student

When Wendell Phillips High School Principal Rashad Talley attended one of his school’s football games last year, he noticed a familiar face. One of his former students from his years teaching seventh- and eighth-grade math in CPS was at the game. It turned out that his son Desean was a student at Phillips and one of the stars of the school’s football team. 

“Desean is one of the most respectable young men that we have in our building and excels in both parts of being a student-athlete,” said Principal Talley. “When I see him, I see his father, and sometimes I joke and call him grandson. We have a very special relationship.” 

When it comes to the “student” half of being a student-athlete, Desean has excelled academically. He is one of about 40 members of his class to take college-level courses while in high school, taking advanced English and math courses at Northeastern Illinois University and Chicago State University. He has identified both English and math as his favorite subjects, not only because he finds them interesting, but because he sees them as important for his future. 

He is currently interested in pursuing a career in real estate, a passion he explains can be traced back to a social media video he saw during his sophomore year. While he is focused on establishing a strong financial foundation for himself through his future career, he is also committed to giving back. 

“Something that I’ve learned growing up in Chicago is that there are always people who need help and people doing worse off than you are,” said Desean. “With real estate, it can be a way to support the homeless.” 

Wildcats4life sign

While he had consistent positive experiences inside the classroom, many of Desean’s favorite memories at Phillips took place on the football field. He plays defensive back and safety, returns punts and kickoffs, and is a receiver every once in a while. His first year playing football was his sophomore year, and his team went 9-2 and reached the quarterfinals. He describes himself as an athlete who doesn’t take a play off and plays with his heart. 

When looking at potential colleges, a strong football program was high on the list of qualities that Desean paid close attention to. From there, he took a closer look at each school’s graduation rate, as well as the scholarships and financial aid they provide. He says that he looked especially closely at scholarships because of his close relationship with his mom, whom he wanted to make proud by ensuring that his education would not be a financial burden on his family. 

His acceptances have been rolling in, and so have the scholarship offers. His recent acceptance to Bradley University—and the scholarship money that came with it—brought his scholarship total to more than $1.25 million. Now comes the hard part—deciding where to go. 

Desean has started going on a number of visits to compare his options. When on a particular school’s campus, he is paying close attention to the student life. He also asks questions related to football to learn more about the school’s coaching staff, equipment, and approach to workouts. But, ultimately, academics are at the top of his mind. 

“I’m mainly looking at where I feel can help me become a better man and a better student,” Desean said. “College can help me get to a higher level; it can help me learn more about business, read better, write better, and do a lot of other things better than I’m doing them now.” 

With his time at Phillips winding down, Desean knows that giving his all both inside the classroom and on the football field will pay off in the long run. He wants the students following in his footsteps to remember that no one is too good to attend class consistently and complete their schoolwork. He believes that if academics are coming easily to you, you can always push yourself more rather than checking out. 

If they follow these reminders, he thinks that future Phillips seniors can have just as positive of a high school experience as he had. 

“In these four years, I feel like I made a name for myself and put a name on the football team,” said Desean. “I’ll always remember the students, teachers, and staff—everything about my time here.”

Photo of Phillips High School

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