As we close out 2019, I could share about what we accomplished this year and about the awesome growth we’ve seen within our students, but what really matters is hearing from our parents themselves. Please take a moment to read this open letter from Jael Parker, a parent of one of our founding students, to hear a powerful example of how your support has impacted the life of her son.

Thank you so much for being a part of the Ryan Banks Academy family. Happy New Year and together, we look forward to creating more greatness in 2020!!

Val Groth
Founder & CEO
Ryan Banks Academy

To Whom It May Concern,

I would first like to express my gratitude for taking the time to read my letter in hopes you would start or continue to help Ryan Banks Academy achieve their mission in elevating children. In this letter I will focus on why my family chose Ryan Banks to further our son’s education, the impact this school has on my son, and how reaching their full potential would improve the community.

My son had been a student of Chicago Public Schools ever since he began his learning journey. As time passed, the environment was no longer conducive to the learning vision I wanted for my son.  I’d been trying for a couple of years to find a better situation for Taj when I was presented with a flyer about Ryan Banks and began my research on the school. After learning the backstory of why Ryan Banks was created and their mission, I knew this would be the perfect environment for my son. I could not pass allowing my son the opportunity to experience a classroom where his education would be the main focus. I saw how he would not be in an overcrowded class and they would also focus on his mental and social health. These were the determining factors in why we transitioned to Ryan Banks to further our son’s education.

Within two weeks my son was stating he never wanted to leave his school. Taj felt welcomed and included in the classroom, a feeling which can sometimes be difficult for a bi-racial child embracing multiple cultures. He would rave about how much he loved the teachers and what he was learning. Taj comes home every day excited about school and informs me of his day from beginning to end. I’m not sure if the individual reading this has a teenager, but I can assure you this is not a normal trait, and I cherish these moments.

I have witnessed his grades, test scores, and demeanor improve on so many levels due to the culture Ryan Banks has created. The hands-on approach the staff uses to educate and spark creativity has shown to be beneficial on every platform.  Taj wants to gain as much knowledge as possible, he is very inquisitive about everything and consciously calculates his decision making now. Ryan Banks has helped him become progressive with his thinking but also allows him to be a child at heart by not just having him in a classroom but in a community.

Ryan Banks Academy is striving to produce “leaders, thinkers and world-changers” into society with their approach to education. Aristotle says, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” I feel this has to be what Valerie Groth was thinking when she envisioned Ryan Banks at full bloom: a community where at-risk children from all socio-economic backgrounds are educated as a whole. A culture where teaching is immersive, and students have a voice in their education path and design. In addition to this, soon having tuition free living quarters where children are protected from being directly affected by the challenges many of them face in their family structure.

If Ryan Banks is able to achieve their vision this school would be like no other, not only for the community but for the city of Chicago. Proving a safe dwelling for children will be a major step in the right direction. We are all aware of the statistics when it comes to children being homeless, not receiving proper nutrition, or living in communities where life expectancy is drastically decreased by as much as 20years. The platform Ryan Banks is trying to provide will address and eventually solve all these factors if given the chance.

Lastly, “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin. Who is best to give sound advice than one of our founding fathers about education?

I ask on behalf of the students and community affected by Ryan Banks for your support in helping their mission emerge to its full potential. It is individuals such as yourself who will navigate the direction of our next generation. This is the generation who will grow to be our doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists, and our caregivers. You are investing in the children today to reap their sound decisions of tomorrow which will affect everyone. Think to yourself, what kind of return would you like to see in your future? Ryan Banks Academy is trying to ensure this future has a chance and is a bright one. 

Again, I thank you for taking the time to read my family’s experience with Ryan Banks and how we look forward to continuously growing together with your help.


Jael Parker
Mother of Taj Zuniga