East Side young man headed to West Point

Christian Banks, 18, an East Sider and a graduate of Washington Technology Magnet School, is headed to West Point, the United States Military Academy. (submitted photo)

Backed by proud parents and a quiet confidence, East Sider Christian Banks, 18, is getting ready for a grueling, challenging college experience.

He found out recently he got into the prestigious United States Military Academy - West Point. The competitive military academy lies about 50 miles north of New York City on the Hudson River, and brings about 900 young men and women into the Army annually.

Banks graduated with honors from Washington Technology Magnet School where he also served on the school’s Naval JROTC program.

Byron Toole, his commander at Washington, described Banks as “a good student, a good athlete, and just a good guy.”

Gardner LaMarche, a naval science instructor at Washington, said Banks is a guy who keeps the mood light while still keeping on track.

He said Banks’ pursuit of West Point came a little late -- LaMarche encouraged him to get everything in order after Banks started wondering if he had a shot at the academy last year.

“I told him to get busy, get serious,” LaMarche said, and it paid off. “I think the Army’s going to get a good kid.”

Banks will have tuition and living expenses covered by the school, where he’ll have a student-to-staff ratio of 1:6.

He seems excited and motivated to get started at the school, which he’s gone to great lengths to get into -- he had to pursue a congressional nomination from U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum’s office, and went through an intense interview with military personnel.

He couldn’t remember many of the questions they grilled him with, but he could remember what he said when they asked him why he wanted to go to West Point -- “I want to go to West Point not only to achieve my dreams but to be able to help other people,” he told them.

He pictures himself entering the school’s engineering program after completing a year of academic prep at the school before entering the four-year West Point program.

He said his interest in engineering was sparked by a St. Paul Public Schools program called Project Lead the Way.

Father and son

To prepare for days of waking up at the crack of dawn to do military drills, Banks has been rising at 4:45 a.m. with his father, Jeffrey Banks, who’s thrilled for his son’s upcoming college experience.

The two wake up and do calisthenics and stretching in front of their East Side home.

From there, they’ll go running or do other conditioning training. For instance, Jeffrey made a backpack with weights in it for his son, and will have him run up and down hills.

From there, it’s a hearty, protein-rich breakfast for the teen before his father heads off to work.

“I’m hoping to model what that lifestyle would be like,” his father explained.

Such is the enthusiasm and vigor of the Banks family.

Young man will bloom

Once his son’s off at school, Jeffrey will just be watching the young man bloom.

“I’m really excited as far as the direction his life is going to go from this point on,” he said. “I’ll just be looking forward to seeing my son grow and come into his own, move into that manhood phase.”

Banks has a family history of military service -- his father was in an ROTC program at Iowa State University, and his grandpa was a Marine, and his uncle was in the Air Force.

“It’s kind of a natural progression for (Christian) to be on this path,” his father said.

Christian’s mother, Ramona Banks, said though it’s a shock that her son got into the academy, it matches well with his ambitions. “We’ve always known he wanted to be in the military,” she said.

Pointing to what his mentors said about his strong leadership and his self-starting motivation, Ramona added, “As his parents, of course, we thought he could do it.”

She said though she’s happy for her son, she’s going to miss him a lot once he leaves for the school at the end of July.

“I’m going to cry my head off (when he leaves), but I think it’s going to be awesome,” she said. “I write a mean letter, that’s all I can say.”

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.


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