Future Matters: Encouraging, preparing South Bend youth

Education is rapidly becoming realized as a multidisciplinary approach. Learners need a safe, recognizable place to do so. That’s why a Purdue University College of Education professor and his father are implementing this approach in their community.

Dr. Terron Phillips, Jr. teaches as a clinical assistant professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in Purdue’s College of Education. Phillips and his father, Terron Phillips, Sr., founded the nonprofit organization Future Matters in 2021 to equip South Bend students to succeed financially and lead fulfilling lives.

Terron Phillips
A group of South Bend Community School Corporation middle school students gathered for a photo.

(l) Dr. Terron Phillips, Jr.; (r) South Bend Community School Corporation middle school students attended a youth engagement event with Terron Phillips, Sr., at the Charles Black Center. Students learned about the power of “choosing the right weapon” and developing a plan to achieve their educational and career goals. (Photos provided by Terron Phillips, Jr.)

Phillips, Jr. focused on financial literacy in his studies, which is also the focus of Future Matters. “Our main focus is to expose students to as many postsecondary career and educational paths during their time with us,” he said.

Future Matters serves South Bend 7th-12th grade students, referring to them as “rising leaders.”  Students come from “historically marginalized and disadvantaged communities, according to Phillips. 

“The youth of this community carry a variety of interests and talents which – if appropriately developed and embraced – can help advance the ongoing improvement and innovation within the city,” according to the organization’s website.

“[We’re] trying to establish a solid financial footing that, for many of them, was not previously present,” Phillips said.

A behind the scenes view of South Bend students being interviewed for a podcast.
Future Matters toured Frazier Kid Productions, a multimedia production company located in South Bend, and were introduced to the podcast studio equipment during their visit.

Future Matters offers resources and events for middle school and high school students interested in athletics, college, or career readiness through tracks. Each track provides students with resources targeted towards those tracks’ goals.

  • For the athletic track, Future Matters partners with the Charles Black Center, Indiana GearUp, and River Bend Apparel & Promotions. It gives students more college advising on things such as development of highlight reels, access to recruitment camps, and college athletic program selection advising, according to its website.
  • The college track offers students admissions and financial aid counseling so they can make the best decision based on their interests and financial situation.
  • The career readiness track gives students opportunities to connect with local companies and organizations for internships and employment opportunities.

Events offered by Future Matters include college visits for students who wish to follow the college tracks. Future Matters’ students have visited Southern University, Fisk University, Tennessee State University, Alabama A&M University, Drake State Community College, and Kentucky State University. Phillips added that Future Matters hopes to visit Purdue University next year.

Group of Future Matters students seated on a staircase.
Future Matters students visited the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, TN, after visiting the campus of Tennessee State University.

“This program has given me a sense of relief for this whole process and I am very grateful for the opportunity,” said Kendall Ivory, a college student who attended Future Matters’ events.

Phillips explained that Future Matters reflects both his and his father’s personal experiences in athletics, trades and careers, and education. Phillips says his work “supplemented my lived experiences as a first-generation, low-income, Black college student turned college administrator.” He strives to unite theory and practice in Future Matters and finds it contributes well to the program. 

Next steps include expanding Future Matters’ enrollment, aiming to double student participation from 20 to 40 within the next two years. Phillips also wants to utilize more programs and resources – such as financial wellness coaching available to Future Matters participants after graduating from high school. 

“I would like to thank Future Matters for showing me [both] four-year and two-year schools. It helped me choose a two-year school because of the smaller classes and campus, making it easier to navigate,” said Shantia Thomas, a graduating high school senior. “Also, I would really recommend any high school or middle school student to attend the Future Matters program. They will teach you a lot, show you a lot, and how to navigate through life.”

Source: Terron Phillips, Jr., phil350@purdue.edu

Writer: Rebekah DeMoss, rdemoss@purdue.edu