In the season of graduations, East Sider finishes at West Point


East Sider Christian Banks just wrapped up his U.S. Military Academy education. He graduated from West Point May 25 as a second lieutenant, and after a few months at home, will spend the next five years in the U.S. Army. (submitted photo)

Back in 2014, just ahead of Christian Banks’ high school graduation, he was preparing for a big life change — he was about to attend the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.

Five years later, Banks has graduated from West Point as a second lieutenant with a major in information technology.

The competitive military academy lies about 50 miles north of New York City on the Hudson River, and sends some 900 young men and women annually into the U.S. Army.

Banks, who attended Washington Technology Magnet School in St. Paul, sat down with the Review five years ago to talk about his future at West Point. More recently, Banks again chatted with the Review and reflected on his military academy experience and what comes next. 

“I couldn’t really fathom what being at West Point would be like before I came here,” Banks said in an email. “I knew what I was getting into, but there is no way I could have imagined all the opportunities that were given to me.”

 

Proud all around

Preparing for West Point in 2014, Banks was thinking of studying engineering. Reflecting on it now, he said it makes him smile, since he’s so pleased with his chosen degree.

“I absolutely love it,” he said. “I thoroughly enjoyed computing before West Point, so picking IT was a great choice for me.”

His mother, Ramona, laughed during a phone interview as she remembered seeing his giant textbooks during visits. She asked him, “You have to read this?”

She said he always succeeded at academics, adding that she never had to bother him, or any of her kids, about getting their homework done. They’d always finish it, and she said that work ethic is a big contributor to Banks’ success.

“It’s hard work,” Ramona said. “As a parent, I wish I could pat myself on the back, but I can’t — it was all him.”

While Ramona and Banks’ father, Jeffrey, chalk it all up to their son’s work ethic, he cites them as a big influence on his success. 

During his senior year of high school, Banks and his dad would wake up every morning at 4:45 a.m. as a way to prepare for the early mornings at West Point. They’d do calisthenics, stretch and then head out for runs. Sometimes it was different conditioning exercises, running up and down hills with backpacks full of weights. 

“I looked back at [the exercises] my dad and I did in 2014 and realized that it actually helped me prepare,” Banks said. 

Jeffrey recalled that his son did phone him a few weeks into the academy to thank him for the help.

“It makes me proud to know that West Point saw the potential in him,” Jeffrey said. 

 

Next steps

Banks said he’s missed the East Side, his friends, neighbors and the local stores, and that he’s looking forward to spending some time there following graduation.

“Everyone in my neighborhood is friendly and loving, so I can’t wait to be back.”

He said he’s also planning some road trips, but soon his focus will turn to preparing for a Basic Officer Leader Course he’ll be entering in October. 

Once he’s done with the training, he’s got a five-year commitment with the Army. He said doesn’t know where he’ll be posted.

As for other students aspiring to get into West Point, Banks’ advice is to “make yourself a competitor.”

“The way I viewed admissions is, ‘Why should they pick me over someone else?’” said Banks, adding that beyond academics and physical fitness, it’s important to demonstrate good character by doing things like volunteering. 

He pointed out that anyone applying should be prepared for a rigorous and tough experience. 

“I can’t really lie and say it was easy because it was not,” Banks said. “I really had to put in the work in order to ensure I succeeded.”

He said it feels amazing to have had the opportunity and he feels like his career has “started off on the right foot.”

“West Point has challenged my character and morals constructively, and I think overall the experience has made me a better person.”

 

–Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com.

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