Alana Banks: ‘Cal Prep believed in me before I did’

Alana Banks, winner of an Incentive Awards scholarship to Cal, started at Cal Prep in sixth grade and ended up as student body president. She loves science.

For me, elementary school was a living hell. I was dyslexic and had a speech impediment, so as early as kindergarten I was labeled with “special needs”

My sixth grade math teacher realized that I needed help, so she signed me up for after-school tutoring. She realized that I didn’t know how to do pre-algebra, let alone my times tables or basic addition and subtraction.

Alana BanksFor sixth and seventh grade I hated Cal Prep, because it was so hard for me to just get by. Every day I stayed after school, and it felt like I never got a break. When I started eighth grade, I learned how to manage my dyslexia. I became stellar at math — it was my favorite subject.

Sometimes you just need a gardener to dig a hole and watch you grow. At Cal Prep, we have brilliant teachers by our side. They were like our mentors; they didn’t only help me when it came to school work but they helped me when it came to personal issues. They trained me to speak in public and raised my confidence level. They taught how to face and overcome challenges. Cal Prep has taught me what a lot of scientists say can’t be taught – charisma. Is there an award to give Cal Prep? Maybe a Nobel peace prize? Because they transformed an Oakland girl with no hopes to a cooperative citizen, who helps her peers when they need it and is a 4.0 student. And I know when I’m in college, more students, maybe even my nieces, will have these amazing opportunities. All thanks to Cal Prep.

Since the sixth grade, Cal Prep has taught me that education is very important. I believe Cal Prep: My education is very serious, and so are my nieces’. One of them is going to an underperforming elementary school like I did. I don’t want her to fall between the cracks in the education system, so I advocate for her as if I were her mother. Which is why I felt like going to college next fall might not be for the best — but you know what Cal Prep said to that? “Girl, you are going to college.”

I need to go to college to set an example for them, because they need to know that it is possible.

But that was not the only problem. My mom discourages me from thinking about college because college costs more than she will ever make in her entire life. But Cal Prep has helped me see that this should not be a barrier to opportunity. Every time finances were a problem, Cal Prep and my other supporters have always supplied. College applications? Cal Prep gave me a fee waiver. College visits? Cal Prep helped me fund-raise. It’s like, these guys really don’t put a price tag on education. Cal Prep has taught my mom that going to college is priceless, and that no matter what I will be fine, financially. So this fall I’m attending Cal, my dream school, and I received a full ride — a real example of self-controlled success.

Cal Prep is my gardener, and they believed in my future before I did. They taught me that even a seed without light and water can grow through the dirt in the spring time.