As you all know, my family has influenced my life and has molded me into the well-rounded woman I am today. But I want you to know that there are also more people who have supported me along my journey. I want you to meet them because without these great people, I would not be who I am today! My new Blog Series is called, People Who Have Influenced My Life. So here is my first Blog, Mr. Thomas Bankston.
Around the age of six, my parents enrolled me in preschool/daycare at United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) currently United Rehabilitation Services. Back then, UCP was an organization that only served children, teens and adults with cerebral palsy. The executive director was a very nice, curly- head, fair skinned, African-American man named Thomas Bankston!
Although Mr. Bankston was a man of power, he was very caring and a hands-on director. I can remember times when he would come down from his office to play with the kids. He would interact as if we were his own children. Mr. Bankston would also go over some of the lessons we had learned to make sure we were retaining them, in-order to be prepared for the next grade. I also witnessed numerous times, Mr. Bankston, conversing with the adult participants on how their day was going and if they needed or wanted anything. Now that I think about it, he was promoting self-advocacy.
When I say, Bankston was an all hands on deck type person, I mean it. From playing Santa at Fairview Church at the holiday party to hitting the dance floor during the adult dances, he was right there. After all the fun was done and over, Mr. Bankston was still able to go back to his desk and advocate to get the contracts, grants and funding we needed to keep the lights on.
Mr. Bankston had an open door policy. He genuinely cared about the clients. He always informed the parents, so they could make the best decisions that would enhance their love one’s quality of life and promote independence.
Although I was young during my time with Mr. Bankston, I now realize he was the first African-American I’d ever seen to hold an executive position. Just to see someone of my own race hold such a high position influenced me greatly.
Mr. Bankston is no longer here in flesh, but I’m sure he’s looking down happy and proud of the legacy he left behind. I wanted to acknowledge him publicly. I hope he knew how he influenced a young Shari to understand, no matter your status, creed, color or disability; you have the power to succeed and make a difference in the world.
Thanks Mr. Bankston. I salute you!