Ryan Banks Academy is an independent and coeducational college-preparatory, residential, tuition-free middle and high school that will prepare motivated students from Chicago neighborhoods to graduate from college, enter into meaningful careers, and be the catalyst to bring positive change into their communities.
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The REAL Story Behind Ryan Banks Academy: The Moment That Changed Everything

As I mentioned in a previous post, my dream has always been to start an inner city boarding school here in Chicago.   I used to put this on my "one day" list - until I was at the World Domination Summit 2014, which is a conference based on the principles of adventure, community, and service.  Though the name “World Domination Summit” admittedly sounds a bit strange, it’s a tongue in cheek reference to the fact that conference attendees are individuals who strive to live “a remarkable life in a conventional world”.

I remember like it was yesterday:  I was sitting in the balcony and listening to Michael Hyatt’s speech.  As long as I live, I will never forget that exact moment when my life was changed forever.  When Michael discussed the statistics an actuary told him about how one person in the audience (of about 2,000 people) would die within the next 30 days, that hit me like a brick wall.  

After years of allowing my biggest dream to remain just a dream, at that very moment I vowed instantly to go home and to take action to make my goal a reality.  Along with an amazing team, we believe with the right people to brainstorm, plan, and share ideas, and the right amount of passion, we will be able to change the trajectory of education as well as save lives and for the past eight months we have been taking action to build Ryan Banks Academy, Chicago’s first residential boarding school for inner city youth.

Last year when they announced the 2014 WDS Scholarships for Life recipients, I was so impressed and inspired by the grant winners and the amazing work they were doing in their nonprofits.  I decided that I wanted to be on that stage the following year, and though I’m still in a bit of shock, that’s just what happened!

In May 2015, we got the call that changed everything:  I was told via a Skype call with a WDS staff member that we had won the 2015 grant!  While we had spent the last year working incredibly hard and we had made some great progress, up until that moment,  we had felt a little bit like The Little Engine That Could. If “I think I can, I think I can” was our mantra before, “I KNOW we can!” became our new motto.  While our team was incredibly passionate in our mission and we had faith that we would do whatever it takes to make Ryan Banks Academy a reality, winning the scholarship showed us that others outside of our organization, and outside of Chicago, believed in what we are doing.  Just knowing that we had the backing and support of WDS and that the WDS team believes in us means the world, and that goes beyond the financial aspect.

Thanks to winning the WDS grant, we are working harder than ever and a year from now we will have built Chicago’s first residential school for urban youth.  Thank you, WDS for believing in us and for your continued support!

Oh, and you may be wondering what the hashtag #TakeAStepForRyan means.  You’ll learn more about that in our next blog post when talk about Ryan’s story!