Greg Banks has been a Seattle CARES mentor since we launched Our Best in 2017. Employed in health care, Banks was one of the first men we recruited into Our Best and one of the first to complete mentor orientation and training.
Banks transitioned to The Rising program two years ago where he mentors a 13-year-old enrolled at Meany Middle School. The young man, who lives with his grandmother in the Central District, has seen more than his share of tragedy. Although his mentee was reluctant to open up at first, Banks persisted and today the two have formed a close friendship.
Along with Banks participation as a mentor, the Seattle CARES team advocated for the family, finding community partners to help pay rent and utility bills. We talked to Banks recently about mentoring.
Why did you become a mentor? I was a troubled youth and there was no one to help me make difficult decisions. My father died when I was 16 years old and I felt so lonely after that.
What do you like most about mentoring? I enjoy building strong relationships with young people. Today’s youth want the same thing I wanted when I was their age: To have someone who is there for them. They want a man who accepts them for who they are. I find it surprising that with all our technology, what a young man wants most is to be loved.
Can mentoring help youth better deal with today’s political and racial tensions? There is a lot going on in the world today, from police abuse to a global pandemic. Being able to talk with someone about these things can be life-changing.
How do you talk about these issues with The Rising scholars? During our Rising sessions, we ask the young men to talk about how they feel, what they’ve seen and heard. Then we ask: If you were an adult, what would you do? How would you change things? It gives them a chance to talk about what is going on without being judged. Some ask questions, many talk about their fears. The mentors share their experiences, as well. We tell them the most important thing is to make it home each day. If you are stopped by the police, do everything they ask you to do. It is better we pick you up from the police station under the wrong circumstances than to have to identify you at the morgue.
Describe being a mentor in three words. Rewarding, fulfilling, commitment.