Amplify Academy – Jasmine Banks

Jasmine Banks

My family has been in Madison, WI for five generations and because it’s my home and community. That defenilty is paramount for the reason I chose the path of non-profit work. I was introduced to my first adult job at the Madison Community Health Center in 1990 by Doris Kinney, the Employment Specialist at the Urban League of Greater Madison when its offices were in a beautiful yellow painted brick house across from James Madison Park. I have been working in non-profit in the Madison Community the majority of my 30 plus career and currently am the Strive Coordinator at Operation Fresh Start. As the Strive Coordinator, I work with 17 to 24 year old young people and provide them a path to self-sufficiency that includes, empowerment, employment and mentorship. I currently have two platforms for Strive, one is Construction and the other is Healthcare. Even though my programs are rather short, I’m amazed at the amount of growth that happens during that time. To say that I am beyond proud of my young people is an understatement!

Get to know Jasmine better

How did you come to work at your current organization?

Operation Fresh Start – A friend of mine told me they were hiring for a Coordinator for a program called Strive. When I initially applied, I missed the deadline. So I decided to keep my eye out and see if anything else came open and it did! I applied and got the job! Funny how I live two blocks away from the old Operation Fresh Start building on Winnebago but never even thought about applying because I assumed it was all about Construction and with my background, I never thought they would have anything I would be qualified for. But low and behold they did and here I am!

Why is the work that you do important to the Madison community? Why is it important for you?

I work with young people ages 17 to 24 who have decided that college is not for them at the momen or ever. Are usually going from job to job, trying to find their “niche” but not even quite sure where to begin. It’s important to me for a lot of different reasons. Number one, I was that young person. A high school graduate without a clue of what was next but thankful that I had a family and community to guide me. Number two, this work is so important because this population is so incredibly important to be included in our community to make it whole. This is the group of young people that most likely will stay in Madison, build a career, start a family and move nextdoor to me in the process. If we ignor this population we are doing ourselves and most importantly them an enourmous disservice. And my motto, if not me/us then who?

What is your vision for Madison?

My vision for Madison? Is to live in a place that is thriving for ALL! Not just a select few. When articles come out and say, Madison is the number one city to live in. I genuinely want to agree with those statements. I hate reading them only to think, except. Except, for folks like me, the folks that I serve or except for black and brown folks. I want to feel confident that whoever wrote that article and those reading it, knows that it is true for everyone in our community and not just a select few. My vision for Madison includes access to inclusive education institutions, self-sustaining jobs with benefits, affordable housing, accessible transportation and mental health services for ALL.

When you look back over your whole life – What experiences have shaped you as a woman? and Why?

The love and kindness of others is what has shaped me as a woman. It took an entire community to shape me into the woman that I am today. From the mentorship of the older ladies at the Department of Revenue when I was in high school and as a graduate. Working at the Madison Community Health Center and learning how to treat people from all walks of the life the same. Never different based on their circumstances. Meaning, if you treat everyone with kindness no matter their social economic status, religion, race, sexual preference or what have you, you can never go wrong. Choosing the career of non profit work and being of service to others has definitely helped mold me into the woman that I am today.

What are some of your practices of resilience? Who did you learn this from and how are these helpful in times of challenge?

I come from a family of no excuses. My parents were the perfect example of you do what needs to be done. My favorite example is back in the seventies, Madison Metro went on strike. We didn’t have a car and my dad who worked two jobs, at Oscar Mayer and the VA Hospital needed to get back and forth despite the strike. He purchased a ten speed bike and rode that bicycle even once the bus strike had ended. He didn’t miss a beat. Make up excuses for why he couldn’t get back and forth to work but instead was solution driven and figured it out. And that’s definitely a message that I share with my young people. No excuses for why they can’t get something done but instead figuring out ways to get over those barriers that are in their way.

What are some of the things you enjoy the most in life? What keeps you inspired, re-charged and brings you joy?

My family, my daughter and granddaughters are definitely key to keeping me inspired. As the matriarch of my immediate family, I know that I have my daughter and granddaughters watching my every move and looking to me as who a woman is and how she should maneuver through life. I pray that they do better then I did and my mom before me and so on and so forth but know they are standing on the shoulders of some AMAZING women from which they came. My personal “me” time is another way that I re-charge and brings me joy. I make sure and take time for self. As well as, being a small business owner of Handcrafted Natural Goods for the Body and Home, Perfect Imperfections. My business brings me joy, time to reflect, center myself and connect.

When you think of your life journey unfolding, Who do you see yourself becoming?

I grew up in a family of all girls, I have four older sisters to be exact. So I know the power of woman and learned that from a very early age. From my dads perspective, woman are the most powerful beings on earth and he raised his daughters to know and live that. As my journey we call life continues, I see myself continuing to be a servant of others. That is my passion. To make sure that others are treated and led with respect and given access to what I consider to be basic human rights. Housing, food, clothing, education, healthcare and transportation. In some shape, form or fashion I always see myself in that role. Being a part of Amplify Madison and this cohort of 30 AMAZING, Intelligent, Brave, Kind, Loving, Makers and Shakers women has reminded me of what I knew from birth. That women have the power to truly make changes in the world, especially when we work together as a collective. And attending the Tradeswomen Build Nations conference in Minneapolis and being in a space of 2800 WOMEN! You can only imagine what that meant to me and those who attended. When you are one in the sea of those that don’t look like you, it can be easy to question your abilities but thanks to Amplify, I need never question that again. Personally in addition to making my family proud, I will continue to follow my passion and go where I am divinely lead.

Please list any recognition, awards or other similar that you might have received from college all the way to today.

2012 UW Odyssey Graduate – 2016 Water Bearer Award Recipient – 2017 Upstart Graduate – 2017 Accepted into the Madison Public Market – Market Ready Program – 2017 Summit Credit Union Red Shoes Event Panelist – 2017 Upstate Annual Dinner Panelist – 2017 Sabrina Madison Entrepreneur of the Year – 2018 Doyenne Founders Series Graduate – 2018 Presenter at Doyenne’s Spring Showcase – 2018 Featured Business for MG&E Living in Balance Series – 2018 Featured Speaker at Sustain Dane’s Monthly Membership Meeting 2018 Featured Small Business for Madison College Center for Entrepreneurship Lunch and Learn –  2019 Madison Black Chamber of Commerce Home Based Business Award

Construction Tradeswomen Network