Finding Serenity

Terry Banies lived expecting to die any day. He wanted to take the easy route in life, but it turned out to be the exact opposite.

One day, when Terry Banies was a little boy, he looked down from the window of his family’s apartment in the Robert Taylor project—a South Side of Chicago high-rise complex.

In the courtyard below, he saw nine or 10 guys. They formed a circle. The circle grew smaller and smaller. 

When the circle broke up and the boys went their separate ways, there was a body on the ground.

Banies still shudders at the memory.

In the projects, one of his sisters was killed. Two of his brothers went to prison.

He recalls walking down the stairs one day when he was approached by several older boys. They told him he had to come with them. He said he couldn’t. He said he’d promised his mom he’d be home by 5:30 p.m.

“They said if I didn’t go with them, something bad would happen to me and something bad would happen to my family.

“I’m not the type of man that makes excuses for his shortcomings,” said Banies, “but waking up every day expecting something bad to happen to you is not the ideal situation for anyone to have to endure.”

At 13, he ran away. He lived in shelters, abandoned buildings, downtown streets. He joined gangs. He did drugs.

“My life hasn’t been a picnic,” he said.

But Terry Banies is a turnaround artist.

He turned a life of running, getting high and a DUI into a commitment to help others address similar perils.

He turned a prison stint into a general education degree.

He turned the GED into human services study at College of DuPage.

He turned COD classes into a bachelor’s in Social Work at Governors State University.

He turned the social work degree into a social work job at South Suburban Family Shelter—a domestic violence agency.

He’s now on track to finish his master’s, also from Governors State, and hopes to earn his Ph.D.

For 10 months on the job at South Suburban, Banies has been giving back to the world that almost did him in. He works at “abuser intervention.” He helps domestic violence perpetrators redirect themselves. He helps them address the physical, emotional, mental or financial abuse they’ve been perpetrating on their loved ones.

“It’s a way to help families out,” said Banies. “I like it. Often, I’m able to connect things from my past to help me be empathetic with other people’s situations.”

Banies credits COD for helping him find his way. 

He received much more than classroom instruction, he said. “I received a lesson on being successful in life.

“I met all the instructors at COD,” said Banies, “but the one who had the biggest impact on my life was Dr. Maryann Krieglstein. She pulled something out of me that I never knew existed. She empowered me with this realistic vision of who I was to become. She allowed me to address some of the hurt and pain that had lain dormant in my life for quite some time.

“I wanted to give back just as she had done for me, so I started discussing with her the credentials I needed to become a social worker and she said if that’s what I wanted to do to go for it. So Dr. K helped me find a school that I could afford and empowered me with the belief that I could do it.”

Today, that circle of guys in the Robert Taylor courtyard is long past. Now, the guy who’s come full circle is Terry Banies. Someday soon, if it hasn’t happened already, someone somewhere will be alive because Banies turned his life around and chose to help others.

At top: Photo of Terry Banies by Lloyd DeGrane/special to College of DuPage.


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