Meet Al Forthan Scholarship Winner Shatanya Banks

The Al Forthan Memorial Scholarship is awarded to an Oregon high school senior from a family affected by alcohol or drug addiction. ‘Affected by addiction’ is defined as follows: you were raised by a parent or guardian who experienced addiction or you abused alcohol or drugs and are now pursuing recovery.

Al Forthan Scholarship Winner Shatanya Banks

Al Forthan Scholarship Winner Shatanya Banks

What has been or was the biggest challenge for you in college?

The biggest challenge for me in college has been getting over the fact that I was alone in everything school related. Being the only person in my family from “both sides” who is continuing their education can be very stressful. In fact, it led me to believe that I was an example for even the adults in my family; the ones who would drive me nuts about my school work. Being that I am the first in my family to pursue my education; I am always receiving lots of opinions about what I should and shouldn’t be doing. Honestly I’ve learned that I must follow my own path, I have to put on my listening ears but keep my mind straight. Even family can give bad advice. I learned that by working hard I could be at one of the nicest college campuses in Portland, Oregon, (Portland State University) but I felt very alone on one of the nicest campuses and I wanted nothing more than just a break. So that is exactly what I did. I took a break from school because I did not want to waste money just to please my family. I learned that big campuses were not my style and it was absolutely the best decision I could have made for myself. The time I took off was so helpful; not to say I got lazy or anything. No! I worked harder. I NEVER quit. I am now a certified nurse’s assistant, three terms away from an Associate’s degree at Portland Community College, where I have fallen in love. I have had a beautiful baby girl who is turning one years old, and my family couldn’t be happier for me. I can say the biggest challenge as a 20 year old college student has been realizing that I am the example to my whole family.

Words of advice for future college students?

I want to say that when we enter into our college days we begin our stages of early adulthood it is one of the best and cruelest times of our lives. My biggest advice for you would be to make time for decisions that can affect your whole life, but whatever you do—make plans! Have goals, morals, as well as a time frame. Where do you see yourself in two years? College will come and go so quickly.

People who made an impact on your life?

I honestly would have hit rock bottom so long ago. I would have stopped caring and putting in effort had it not been for the continuous support and knowledge that I have been given by the people at the Men’s Residential Center as well as Greg and Kristin from the Al Forthan Memorial Scholarship. I have been blessed to have these amazing people in my life. Family can only help you so much, they can only tell you what they know; but Kristin, Greg and all the other people from this group have all been so helpful for me and my family. Another person who impacted my life was my math 20-60 teacher from Portland Community College, Stacy Shinault. When I took Stacy’s class it was approximately my fourth term in school. That term I was excited for more than just math, I was having my baby the end of that term. But with pregnancy there are a lot of changes in your mood, mind and body. I was changing. I had to miss a few classes because of my pregnancy but to my surprise I came back to school and my teacher had ginger candies for me that she had personally gotten out of her own kindness. I feel like if it wasn’t for her amazing teaching method and supportive attitude I don’t think I could have enjoyed not only my pregnancy but also a math class, she absolutely impacted my life.

What was something that surprised you about college?

I think that as seniors in high school we think we know more than we actually no. Or that we are put in situations where family and friends think they know everything that’s best for you. That was my situation—mother, uncles, and friends thought they knew everything best for me; even if they had never been in the situation. Funny how that works, but I had to find out everything. I was surprised that when we don’t rush ourselves, and have a plan college can be a good escape from life. It is powerful for a girl like me who is the first in my family to attend college! I can’t wait to put my daughter in school. I can tell already that she loves to learn. She is so smart even at eleven months old.