CHRIS BANKS FIRST CAME TO UMFS in 2010 as a participant in Project LIFE. He credits Project LIFE with teaching him how to advocate for himself and for his peers, and how to cooperate with people with backgrounds far different from his own. “Project LIFE taught me how to speak my mind and how to help others. It gave me a new outlook. It helped me realize that my life, with all of its challenges, is not that bad and that I have the power to control my future,” he says.
Chris returned to UMFS recently to talk to a group of boys at Charterhouse School. His purpose with the talk, as he describes it, was to share some realities with the boys. “These kids don’t have the chance that often to hear directly from people who were in the same position they’re in now,” Chris explains. “They don’t get to see how they, too, can be successful and make a difference when they become adults.” A Bright Future Ahead Chris is currently working two jobs to support himself. He’s a greeter and server at Mission Barbeque and a front desk assistant at Crunch Fitness. In his free time, Chris trains people at the gym and plans to become a certified personal trainer. If that’s not enough, Chris even has long-term plans to give back to the community. “When I was growing up in the system, we used the word “flex” to describe what someone did when they were about to get into some kind of fight,” Chris explains. “It’s my dream to turn that word on its head and start “UFlex Athletics,” an athletic program for at-risk youth to provide them a safe and constructive way to express themselves.”