Niazi “Ryan” Banks was a happy-go-lucky and enthusiastic 12-year-old boy who was 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. Tragically, on May 19, 2012, Niazi “Ryan” Banks was shot and killed by gun fire. Ryan was a very special child who had the entire world ahead of him. Years later, Ryan’s social worker Valerie Groth wanted desperately to build a community of learners who might be insulated from the violence Ryan faced, while providing a 24/7 stimulating and rigorous academic environment. Thus, the vision of Ryan Banks Academy was born to serve those students.
Who We Are
Ryan Banks Academy is Chicago’s first tuition-free, co-educational independent school. The school opened its doors in September 2018 and is currently operating as a day school with the goal of becoming Chicago’s first urban and tuition-free boarding school. Ryan Banks Academy propels students from all socioeconomic backgrounds into the next generation of leaders, thinkers and world-changers. Agile, learning-based and committed, RBA meets students and families where they are with the investment required to help each student thrive.
To transform urban education by cultivating the talents and potential of at-risk students in Chicago through an immersive and innovative educational experience.
Every student in Chicago will have access to a stable and safe educational environment where they can flourish.
Our Approach to Education
Ryan Banks Academy offers a rigorous academic program that focuses on preparing all students for college. Students have the opportunity to expand their horizons through a curriculum model focused on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) and experiential and expeditionary learning.
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.
Social Emotional Learning
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.
According to a Chicago Public Schools district-wide survey, students cite social and emotional learning as the primary area in which they need more support from CPS. Ryan Banks Academy recognizes that many events society considers traumatic and disturbing are endured by many of our students on a regular basis. This reality, compounded by the fact that most social workers serve multiple schools and are only able to reach a small number of 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 the following 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 ratio that we often see 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.
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 helping the students achieve 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.