Education & Community Service
Spanning 55 years, Phil Yourish has served the greater Newark community as an educator, nonprofit administrator, consultant, and volunteer.
“When it comes to career choices, I have been an extremely fortunate person. I can genuinely say that I have thoroughly enjoyed all the work experiences in which I have participated - and that they closely reflect my beliefs and values about life. And most of all, they have provided me with the wonderful opportunity to help other people. From leading an award-winning alternative high school for high-risk youth - to running a city-wide literacy program - to directing my high school’s alumni association, my work has been my passion! Moreover, an outstanding organization depends upon the collective ideas, skills, and talents of dedicated individuals - and throughout my career in several different settings, I have been privileged to have worked with many remarkable people.”
Phil, who was born at the “Beth,” grew up in Newark and graduated from Weequahic High School in 1964. He has a BA degree from Paterson State College and an MA degree in Urban and Community Education from Montclair State College. Starting his career as a social studies teacher at West Kinney Jr. High School, he has served as the director of four nonprofit organizations through seven decades.
For ten years in the 70s and 80s, Phil headed Independence High School, an alternative secondary school in Newark for high-risk youth that was selected as a national exemplary youth demonstration project by the U.S. Department of Labor. He states that this was his “dream come true job and it consumed me in so many wonderful ways.” After leaving the alternative school in 1988, Phil established his own firm, Consultants for Non-Profits, that allowed him to utilize his experience and skills in providing technical assistance to more than 20 other community-based organizations. During this time, he also worked with Accountants for the Public Interest - NJ and was the founding administrator for a substance abuse treatment center in Pennsylvania.
Although his work takes up most of his time, he has always found moments to do something unusual and exciting. Over the years, he has taken a few trips in his motorhome with his dogs, Ms. Beaujangles and Lady Red, traveling from coast to coast to explore the scenic, cultural, and historical landscape of America. In the early 90s, Phil went on the most fascinating journey of his life - a five-month sojourn to Nepal, India and Thailand to be part of a group that was teaching sustainable farming techniques. This trip was also highlighted by trekking for 19 days in the Himalayas, a one-week white water rafting excursion, living in an international community, and staying in the ashram of a famous spiritual leader. On his return, he was a member of a group of 17 from the Bread and Puppet Circus that went on an amazing road trip from Vermont to Nicaragua in a refurbished school bus to deliver the bus to a performing arts group as a part of a sister-city exchange program.
In 1995 when he became the Executive Director of the Newark Literacy Campaign (NLC), located at The Newark Public Library, Phil brought new life and vision to a program that had been struggling to survive. On being at NLC, he states, “how amazing it was to work in such a historic and beautiful building five days a week helping adults and children improve their reading skills.” When he left in 2000, he took on the reigns of a unique project managing a research team investigating the building of an alternative wastewater system for a women’s conference center in Ohio.
One year later, Phil’s life came full circle when he returned to the high school of his youth to help launch the Weequahic High School Alumni Association, where he served as its founding Executive Director for 13 years. He describes this experience as “unfinished business that was much better the second time around as an adult." Under his tenure, the organization flourished, raising over a million dollars for college scholarships and student activities as it became one of the largest, most active, and successful urban alumni groups in New Jersey.
On the volunteer front, Phil served as an elected Model Cities representative in Newark in the early 70s, and on the board of trustees of numerous community organizations including Newark Landmarks, the Newark Public Schools Historical Preservation Committee, the Cornucopia Network of New Jersey, the Northeast Earth Coalition, and The Jewish Museum of New Jersey, located at Congregation Ahavas Sholom, Newark’s oldest, continuously active synagogue. In 2016, he headed a group that created the exhibit, “The Synagogues of Newark,” for the 350th Anniversary of the city.
When Phil reflects upon his professional career, he doesn’t think he would do it any differently. “My work has always been a large part of my life. It gives me value as a human being. I have truly enjoyed assisting nonprofit organizations to evolve and build a solid foundation for success. Each organization presents a different challenge within a new set of circumstances. That’s what makes it interesting and exciting. It’s very rewarding to be able to contribute. I appreciate the opportunities I have had. They have enriched my life.
Now recently retired, what's next for Phil? "Rest, relaxation, reflection, renewal - and a few more challenging adventures."