Phillipe Cunningham


Phillipe has always believed in the power of change through youth work. Motivated to help build a more fair and just society, he gravitated toward a career in teaching. Phillipe graduated as a first generation college student from DePaul in Chicago. He began his teaching career as a special education teacher and behavioral specialist in Chicago Public Schools. He taught young people with Autism Spectrum Disorders on the Southside of Chicago and was a proud and very active Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1 member.

Phillipe's work did not stop at the classroom door. He was also a pro-bono advocate for low-income parents whose children were in need of special education services and/or facing unfair punishment due to zero tolerance school discipline codes. As a teacher and advocate, Phillipe could clearly see that the city government was failing the very people it is meant to serve.

Phillipe moved to North Minneapolis and found home for the first time in his life. Bringing with him the knowledge and experience he gained as a teacher and advocate in Chicago, he felt a clear call to action to bring his ten years of youth work experience and policy knowledge to the Minneapolis City table.

Shortly after moving to Minneapolis, Phillipe began organizing high school students in the Twin Cities to engage in the public policy process. He supported a group of students at the Capitol to advocate for state legislation that would provide funding for afterschool programs for students across Minnesota.

That same year, Phillipe became involved with the City of Minneapolis through serving on the Youth Violence Prevention Executive Committee. With an expertise in youth policy and youth development practices, Phillipe brought a fresh energy and perspective to the committee as a youth work professional. While on the committee, Phillipe was a vocal advocate for Northside youth and the community. Mayor Hodges took notice and appointed Phillipe to serve in her office as her Senior Policy Aide for education, youth success, racial equity and LBGTQ rights. Since stepping into this role, Phillipe has been able to become an even more active champion for youth, racial equity, and the Northside community.

Phillipe is an expert in youth development and racial equity policy. His work in the Mayor’s Office spans K-12 public education, higher education, youth success, racial equity, and LGBTQ rights. Phillipe has already demonstrated the ability to build work that changes systems to better serve disenfranchised communities. For example, he is the primary coordinator for the local efforts of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, which focuses on improving the life outcomes of boys and young men of color. Additionally, he serves as the Chair for the City of Minneapolis’ Trans Issues Work Group, which is a coalition of City employees, County employees, and Park employees working together to build impactful work that will increase transgender equity throughout Minneapolis.

Phillipe brings policy expertise and a deep understanding of the way that policy impacts individuals in his community. A youth worker and advocate at heart, he knows that centering community voice in the policymaking process is the way to achieve equity.  

Outside of his work in the Mayor’s Office, he is a member of the University of Minnesota’s National Diversity Advisory Board, which helps advise the UMN system on their equity and diversity efforts, policies and practices. He volunteers weekly at Youthlink as a co-facilitator of a support group for LGBTQ homeless youth. He also is a trainer and consultant for diversity and inclusion. Phillipe is currently in the last phase of completing his Master’s in Education in Youth Development Leadership at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.