CHICAGO (CBS) — With tragedy comes triumph as one group of Chicago students prepares to start their first day of class in a very special, brand new school.
The school is named after 12-year-old Ryan Banks, who was killed outside his South Side home six years ago.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports the school, and its mission, was already an idea in its founder’s head before the smiling seventh grader was killed. His death pushed her idea into reality.
Val Groth is less than 12 hours away from seeing a decade-old dream come true. At 7:30 Tuesday morning, the school she has worked to start, Ryan Banks Academy, will open its doors for the first time.
“I’m so excited for tomorrow. I’m definitely nervous as well,” said Groth. “For us to be opening tomorrow is a big deal. It’s tough to put into words.”
It is an emotional eve for Groth as she and her team of three prepare to welcome eight students, all 7th graders, inside their rented space at New Beginnings Church at 66th and King Drive.
The school is tuition-free, geared at kids whose families cannot afford a private school and who may be struggling with other issues.
12-year-old Ryan Banks was one of Groth’s former students while she was a CPS social worker. Banks was shot and killed in a drive by shooting near his home in 2012.
“I hope Ryan would be proud. I know his aunt and I are still in close touch and she tells me that she’s excited and proud. That has given me a lot of strength,” Groth said.
Groth said her next goal is to make Ryan Bank’s Academy Chicago’s first boarding school by 2020, at the latest.
“I wouldn’t call the dream fulfilled yet. We have a long way to go,” she said, explaining the last minute preparations have truly been “last minute.” They finally secured their South Side space two weeks ago.
Grants and donations are funding the Academy.