Student Stories: Terry Banies

Terry Banies

Major: Human Services

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. That has changed, and his transformation has positioned him to help others who have taken the same path he once did. Banies finished both his bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Master of Social Work (MSW) at Governors State University, with a goal of earning his Ph.D.

Along the way, he studied in the Human Services program at College of DuPage and found the experience life-changing.

“I did not graduate from COD, but what I received was much more valuable than my CADC (Certified Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Counselor) or the A.A. degree. I received a lesson on being successful in life,” he said. “All of my instructors – Dr. Maryann Krieglstein, Dr. Rita Bobrowski, Prof. Robert Bollendorf, Prof. Frank Salvatini, Prof. David Bremer, and the rest of the faculty – pushed me to do my best and expected nothing more from me but to do my best. 

“I grew up in Robert Taylor projects. I stayed angry all the time because of all the violence that was happening around me. I’m not the type of man that makes excuses for his shortcomings, but waking up every day expecting something bad to happen to you is not the ideal situation for anyone to have to endure.

“I eventually ended up in a gang and from there went to the penitentiary. I never finished school because I had to cross several gang boundaries to attend. I received my GED in the penitentiary but never thought about school again for a long time. After being released, I started doing drugs to take away my unhappiness with life. It was always told to me that the average life span of a black male was 23 years old so that kind of stuck with me for a very long time.”

While living in Joliet, Banies was arrested for a DUI and the judge ordered him to receive treatment. However, he continued with his drug use until finally he saw himself in a mirror.

“This sudden rush of emptiness and hopelessness filled my gut and as I stood looking in the mirror I cried, because for the first time in my life I realized that there was a disconnection from my Higher Power and life itself. So I went to this treatment center in Joliet called Stepping Stones,” he said.

Banies met Linda Lake, a social worker who instilled in him a seed of hope, and he told her his dream of becoming a counselor. She nurtured that dream and connected him to College of DuPage, where he could become a CADC.

“I met all the instructors at COD, but the one who had the biggest impact on my life was Dr. Krielgstein,” he said. “She is really amazing. 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 laid dormant in my life for quite some time.

“I remember sitting in her class one day and we were having a discussion on the impact of historical trauma. Dr. K started discussing the historical trauma of the African Americans. I learned about the five stages of grief and I realized that I was filled with an unaddressed anger. I also realized that I needed to move on so Dr. K noticed what was happening to me and helped me to address those issues. This lady, as I sit here thinking about the moment, brings me to tears because I am so thankful to not have all that anger inside me anymore. 

“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 told me and 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.”

Banies, who currently works for Youth Guidance in the BAM (Becoming A Man) program and in the Robbins community addressing violence prevention, ultimately just wants to help others who were like him and to stop the unnecessary violence in the Chicago area. He is thankful to College of DuPage for giving him a sense of purpose. 

“The care and concern that is administered at College of DuPage is beyond compare,” he said. “What COD offers a person is the opportunity to become the best that they can be.”

More about the Human Services program