Helen Banks

Making Their Mark

School: The Country School
Title: Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Hometown: Los Angeles

In what ways do you impact the  lives of kids in our community?

“I grew up in a town with a population of 4,000 people. The only people who looked like me lived in five houses on the same street that I did. I never had a Black teacher or any teachers of color at my schools. When race issues happened, I always had to be my own advocate. That’s a lot to put on a kid. My role at The Country School provides representation for BIPOC students. It especially gives Black students comfort knowing that someone with their same cultural background is designated to advocate for them and other marginalized communities.”

What do you believe is your  mission in life?

“My mission is to be a creator who positively impacts the lives of those around me. Whether that’s my position as a DEI director or a screenwriter, I know there is a unique power in my voice and point of view, and I plan on making a mark in this world.”

What achievement are you most proud of?

“I became a mother eight months ago, which has brought me so much pride and joy.”

“Working in education is the  best way to make  a difference  in the world.”

What are you doing to make a difference in this world?

“Working in education is the best way to make a difference in the world. All of those beautiful minds open to learning about diversity and inclusivity will be the changemakers of tomorrow. That is why providing them resources and support is essential, and I am fortunate to facilitate that for them.”

What’s your advice for a simple way we could all fight discrimination and promote inclusivity?

“If everyone took the time to educate themselves about the country’s history with race relations, there would be an opportunity for honest dialogue to transpire. When we can talk truthfully about the ugliness of racism and discrimination, we will be able to dismantle the systemic institutions and ideologies that perpetuate and promote hate. The Country School hosts book talks and other educational opportunities for our parents, board members, and extended community for that very reason. We know the work starts with us.”

Who inspires you?

“Bozoma Saint John. She’s been a CEO at so many major companies and left her imprint on every one of them. On top of that, she’s unapologetically Black and fabulous. I love her!”

What are your greatest talents?

“I am a writer. It’s one of my greatest passions. I started writing and creating content in 2008. I sold a TV show to a cable network in 2018, and I continue to write screenplays during my free time.”

Tell us about your school.

“I love my work because The Country School is such a special place—not only because it’s small by design to meet the individual needs of every student who attends, but it is one of the only independent schools in Los Angeles founded on the principles of social justice. The history of our commitment and dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion work is pivotal when viral video recordings of murdered innocent Black lives are frequent occurrences. The head of our school understands the importance of DEI and is passionate about creating change. It makes a difference for the work I do because I have the support needed to introduce programs and provide teachers with the tools that prepare and train them to have age-appropriate discussions with students. I also assist our educators in constructing the curriculum through an actively anti-racist and antibias lens, and I help provide our students with multicultural material that changes the narrative and highlights the many accomplishments and contributions of people of color. No school is perfect, but The Country School has been doing this work for a long time. That continuous journey makes me proud to work here.”

How do you support those in need?

“I’m always looking for ways to help people achieve their goals or resolve issues. When it comes to my students, I listen to their needs and make sure they feel seen and heard. I never want them to think they don’t matter.  I want them to know that they have an advocate in me.”