Born and raised in New York City, Banks stayed local and attended Brooklyn College where she studied theatre. It was while there that she discovered her passion for working with youth. In a class she was asked, “what can you do when you’re not pursuing an acting role?” She realized then that she loved being around children and listening to them. Nicole shared, “I got emotional thinking about it, how if I could just touch one child with helping them have the spotlight on them and they can have a role and realize they have a voice – that’s what I want to give them.” So, after graduating, she began volunteering as a theatre instructor and she recognized the joy it brought to her – and the change it was bringing to the children.
The organization she was volunteering at was called Kids Creative – she found it through a colleague she was working with on a play, who just so happened to be the Program Director there. From volunteering, she became a group leader, then a theatre instructor, and then a site coordinator at P.S. 191. She thrived at the school, working directly with the kids and seeing the impact dance was having on them. The Executive Director then offered Nicole an opportunity to help on the administrative side doing marketing for their summer camp. It was something new but she was up for the challenge, and she soon was hired through VISTA as Marketing Manager at Kids Creative.
In her new role based in the organization’s headquarters, she was charged with recruitment for summer camp enrollment and email marketing. With a sales background, she flourished in communicating with parents and prospective summer camp attendees. Nicole shared, “You may think it’s just an email or a phone call, but it means a lot to that person – you’re the first touch point, so you have to be as welcoming as possible.” While she enjoyed the new experiences and learned a lot, she was missing the direct interaction with kids and having the opportunity to teach. When offered a full-time office position towards the end of her service term, Nicole shared this – and they heard. She was instead offered the role of Site Director right back at P.S. 191, where she was teaching at previously.
She credits her VISTA year as one that helped her professionally, while also helping to contextualize the importance of both direct and indirect service. “My year away from teaching the kids helped me realize how much we all have to work together to better the children,” said Nicole.
Read more about how Up2Us Sports VISTAs are turning their service year into full-time careers.