Scholarships for Real Life: The Ryan Banks Academy


In 2013 the WDS community started a foundation, making an initial investment of $100,000 and pledging to support “Scholarships for Real Life,” a program to enable people to pursue a dream of their own while also addressing a problem that affects others. Here’s one of our 2015 grantees.

Valerie Groth is a trained social worker and life coach. She recently founded the Ryan Banks Academy, which seeks to create a safe and positive learning environment for kids in the Chicago area.


Ryan Banks Academy is an independent college-preparatory, residential, tuition-free middle and high school that will prepare motivated students from Chicago neighborhoods to graduate from college, enter into meaningful careers, and be the catalyst to bring positive change into their communities.

According to Valerie, the academy’s mission is to teach Chicago students –

“Not only the value of education, but also encouragement for our students to focus on cultivating their own unique strengths, interests, and passions so that they may lead a purpose-filled life. We take a holistic view of the student as a whole person, and our curriculum focuses not just on their academic pursuits but also on developing their relationships, core values, mindset, and our students learn how to set goals and to plan for their future.”

The Scholarships for Real Life grant will support getting her fundraising efforts off the ground, as well as help with her burgeoning volunteer program.

We’ll be announcing two other grantees over the next two weeks—and then we’ll prepare to take applications for 2016 grants!


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