Niazi “Ryan” Banks was a happy-go-lucky 12-year-old boy who was always seen with a big smile on his face. Ryan was enthusiastic, full of life, always curious and loved to make others laugh. He was one of the happiest seventh graders to ever walk the hallways of New Sullivan Elementary School, on Chicago’s far east side. But on May 19, 2012 Ryan Banks was killed by gunfire just outside his home.
Years later his social worker wanted desperately to build a community of learners who might be insulated from the violence Ryan faced, while providing the kind of 24/7 stimulating and rigorous environment academic environment and social/emotional support that is reserved for the very wealthy and privileged.
The idea for a Chicago-based boarding school was born. Welcome to The Ryan Banks Academy Initiative.
Ryan Banks Academy is Chicago’s first tuition-free, inner city, co-ed residential boarding school for underserved children grades 7th through 12th. RBA will combine a high-quality, future-facing STEAM curriculum with an integrated social-emotional education in order to propel students out of poverty and into the next generations of leaders, thinkers, and world-changers. Our first class launched with 7th grade students in Fall 2018.
A Complete Education
Ryan Banks Academy students will expand their horizons through a curriculum model focused on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) and experiential and expeditionary learning. Ryan Banks Academy has a rigorous academic program that focuses on preparing all of our students for college. We recognize that as a residential school, we will benefit from a 24/7 accountability advantage, embedded in which we will have an expectation for dramatic academic gains and personal growth. Our goals for high school graduation rates, college graduation rates, student retention rates, successful internship placement rates, and proficiency rates are mission-driven and benchmarked with the schools with whom we share certain practices.
Ryan Banks Academy plans to differentiate itself from competitor schools because we will be the first boarding school to provide services to underserved children in Chicago. Boarding schools have historically been a privilege and luxury that are reserved for the wealthy, and we believe that a successful boarding school education should also be easily accessible for disadvantaged youth.
Ryan Banks Academy will accelerate and reinforce student learning outside of traditional school hours, ensuring that students graduate from high school with both the academic and life skills to excel in college and in their professional career. Through receiving a breadth of holistic services, students will also be equipped with the social and emotional skills that will allow them to pursue meaningful relationships and to positively contribute back to society. Students will be surrounded by supportive and positive adult role models and mentors that will help them to develop the habits necessary to succeed academically, socially, and professionally.
In addition to providing world-class academic instruction, we believe in taking a holistic view of the child. Many studies suggest that emotional intelligence is a defining characteristic of effective leaders, and we know that attending to children’s social/emotional needs is crucial in order for them to achieve their highest potential.
Students cite social and emotional learning as the primary area in which they need more from CPS (according to a Chicago Public Schools district-wide student survey). Ryan Banks Academy recognizes that many of the events that a society considers traumatic and disturbing, many of our students endure on a regular basis. This reality, compounded by the fact that most social workers serve multiple schools and are only able to reach the neediest students, means that many students who need regular, preventative counseling go without and their academics often suffer greatly as a result. As such, Ryan Banks Academy have a strong focus on social/emotional health as we believe (and studies show) that attending to children’s social/emotional needs is crucial in order for them to achieve their highest potential.
Ryan Banks Academy will reverse this damaging trend by embedding into our model:
- A focus on qualified mental health professionals and mentors to support students in managing emotions, dealing with past traumas, developing relationships, and identifying personal values. Instead of the 1:1200 that we often seen in CPS schools, our ratio of mental health professionals to students will be no higher than 1:30.
- Our experiential learning focus will include annual expeditions, ongoing team building, and student involvement with the creation of a challenge course
- At the foundation of Ryan Banks Academy is the Valor Compass, an empirically proven and competency-based human development model that serves as a metaphor for growth for all members of the RBA community.
- SEL is incorporated into student life through daily Human Development themes:
- Mindful Monday: Meditation, visualizations, mindful practice, self-awareness
- Together Tuesday: Team building, trust activities, challenge course initiatives
- Wellness Wednesday: Yoga, nutritional & physical health, connection to nature
- Thoughtful Thursday: Problem-solving, reflection, goal setting, journaling
- Fun Friday: Residential games, poetry jams, music productions, theatre, comedy
Although our long term vision is for our students to board with us seven days a week, their families will still be an important part of their lives. Ryan Banks Academy believes that parents and teachers are co-educators and co-collaborators in the effort to equip our students with the tools needed to succeed in the future. Through its personalized and results-oriented focus, Ryan Banks Academy aims to help parents partake in, nurture, and celebrate the success of their children. Listed below are the key components of our parental engagement strategy as well as examples of how we will actualize our philosophy:
Awareness: Parents will be regularly notified of student performance, so that parental input can consistently shape student achievement. Ryan Banks Academy will host regular family dinners where parents and guardians can review interim assessment results as a community and enjoy dinner with their families.
Engagement: Parents will be afforded as many opportunities as possible to engage in and celebrate their child’s academic achievement.
Partnership: School staff and parents will be partners in securing the students’ success.
Parent-focused programming: These programs will vary based on the needs of current family members, and will include parenting classes, financial literacy classes, and career counseling.
Fundraising support: Ryan Banks Academy parents will engage in activities that support our financial solvency.
Download the Ryan Banks Academy media kit to learn more about us, and feel free to share with anyone who may be interested in our mission!
Reality in Chicago.
Overview of Academic Curriculum and Social Emotional Learning.
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