TC Success Coach Provides Answers to the Problem of Food Insecurity through Thanksgiving in a Box Initiative

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by Cara Knight 
Texarkana College

Imagine you’re back in ninth grade, the oldest of four siblings, growing up in a drug-infested home. You’re having to sleep outside on a hot, summer day in Louisiana because you’re homeless. 

You wouldn’t know it by looking at him, but that was reality for Phillip Parrish, who is now a Student Success Coach at Texarkana College.

“I can remember it was about one in the morning and my baby sister was crying and I was holding her,” Parrish said. “She kept asking me ‘Is it always going to be like this?’ That struck a chord in me. I didn’t want this to be my life. I couldn’t lean on excuses, so I decided from that day on I was going to make a difference for my family.” 

High school was a lot easier for him than his childhood. He said it’s only because of the counselors, coaches and deacons in his church that committed to helping him succeed. 

“I enjoy mentorship because I feel like I’m where I’m at now because of those people who took a chance on investing in my life,” Parrish said. 

He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in religion and psychology from Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas. He was the first person in his family to earn a college degree.

When the holiday season comes around, Parrish said people can be very reluctant to help because some people abuse others’ willingness to give. The trials he faced allow him to relate to TC students who are struggling with homelessness and food insecurity. 

“I was in those shoes where we would go ask for help and people probably thought we were just looking for a handout,” he said. “We genuinely needed help, and that’s where my heart is every time I hear a student’s concern when they come to me. Those students are the ones I fight for and will go over and beyond for.”   

He only has one title, but he is a man of many hats. While coordinating the food bank and care closet on campus, he also serves on the Texarkana Homeless Coalition Board. 

“Sitting on that board gives me an opportunity to serve that population and with that expertise around me, I’m able to help students navigate through the tough times,” Parrish said. “Food insecurity is something a lot of people are facing this semester, and one of the things that I so appreciate about Texarkana College is the different resources we have in place to assist students.”

The TC Foodbank has provided over 180 individuals and about 40 families with food. Construction Technology student Dimaggio Johnson is one of those.

“I have a family of five and one on the way,” Johnson said. “College, along with living expenses, can make funds tight. I felt Mr. Parrish sincerely wanted to help. I finally found the courage to take advantage of the food bank, and it has been a tremendous blessing to me and my family.”

Parrish started the “Thanksgiving In A Box” food drive to provide families with a full holiday meal. Pilgrim’s Pride graciously donated 70 whole chickens, so many students will not have to worry about the added stress of buying groceries to celebrate. 

As Success Coach, Parrish tutors students who have fallen below the college readiness level in basic reading and math. This also includes Employability Skills Training which teaches students how to be fully-prepared for a job. The course, also referred to as LEAD 1100, develops students’ critical thinking skills. 
“TC is an intimate setting and really a family culture, so we’re able to have that much-needed one-on-one with students,” he said. 

When he started working at TC five years ago, Parrish said the school had a low retention rate, but has increased significantly. He believes it’s because of the many resources available to students that can help them through any season of life, including that extra push to get them across the graduation stage. 

“When we think about what a miracle is, we don’t realize it could involve us stepping up to help someone else,” he said. “During this holiday season, be the answer to somebody’s problem.” 

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