WLC senior overcomes tragedy, prepares for graduation

By: Sherri Kolade | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published May 22, 2013

 Walled Lake Central High School senior and West Bloomfield resident Malik Banks has set his sights on becoming a mechanical engineer after graduating from college.

Walled Lake Central High School senior and West Bloomfield resident Malik Banks has set his sights on becoming a mechanical engineer after graduating from college.

Photo by Sherri Kolade

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Walled Lake Central High School senior Malik Banks is certain that you will hear his name soon.

But it won’t be scrawled across the big screen, stitched across a numbered jersey or listed on the top 100 song charts.

His quest for fame will come from a career path that may lead him to the Big Three automakers.

The 17-year-old soon-to-be-graduate’s goal is as straightforward as his unassuming, confident personality: He wants to become a mechanical engineer.

“I always loved cars: to learn how they worked, to learn how to make them. I’m excited,” Banks, who has been accepted into Wayne State University, said in school recently. “Very excited. It is a major accomplishment.”

Banks, a West Bloomfield resident, would not readily admit that graduating from high school June 2 was more than a major accomplishment — especially considering his educational experience was anything but typical.

His mother died of an illness in 2007, and his father died this past New Year’s Eve from a fatal robbery in Detroit.

Shortly after his father’s death, Banks’ uncle and wife took him into their home in West Bloomfield on one condition: He must attend college full-time.

“I told him I don’t want him to worry about paying rent. Malik is blessed that he has such a strong support system on both sides of the family come together to do all he can to go to graduation,” his uncle, Lloyd Banks III, said. “He is welcome to stay in this home as long as he needs to, with a condition of going to school full-time. ”

Aside from a WSU acceptance letter and WSU summer school program, Banks has the option to enter into a Quicken Loans summer internship and attend community college, Banks III said.

They plan on having a conversation some time in June to figure out what path Banks will choose.

“Either way, he will be in someone’s school full-time,” Banks III said.

Banks, who might have needed a bit of encouragement beforehand to do well scholastically, does not need any coaxing now, since he has a greater obligation to fulfill — to honor his parents and set an example for his 8-year-old brother, he said. 

“I feel that they (my parents) are looking down on me now,” Banks said. “I feel I am making them proud by doing what I am doing. It is very important. It is what they wanted. Even though we didn’t get along all the time … I know they cared about me and wanted the best for me.”

Banks added that he wants his brother to surpass his own educational footsteps so life could be easier for him.

“I look at all the challenges I faced, learning experiences, and I learned from each thing I overcame,” he said of his brother. “I feel it is helpful to help him if he faced anything down the road.”

Banks’ high school counselor, Maryjo Hecker, said she nominated him for the district-based LuAnn DeYonge Scholarship for students who overcame obstacles and still succeeded; one student is allowed a nomination per high school.

“I nominated him, and everyone agrees that he was the best candidate,” Hecker said.

The scholarship, established in 1988, is made available to underprivileged students who demonstrate a good chance for success in a post-secondary program and have a strong financial need. 

“It’s a matter of formalities for when (the result) comes out,” Hecker said.

Hecker, who has known Banks for a few years, said she has seen his family come together to support him.

“Right now, the whole village has come together to help him pull through,” she said. “It is an amazing story of a family from all different worlds that came together, and it couldn’t be for a better kid.

“You always try to see the bright light out of everything. I’m really confident that he will never have a Thanksgiving alone.”

Sometimes, familial-type love crosses over into Banks’ school life, which was evident during an interview when Hecker asked Banks a question.

“Every day when you leave, what do I always tell you? What do I say when you are walking out the door?”

“I love you,” Banks replied.

“And it is true,” Hecker said nearly tearing up. “I’m so excited for him to go on to do those things he is saying. I couldn’t be happier.”

Banks said that, aside from his counselor, his family and church have made an impact in his life.

“Having that support behind you, it changes a lot of things,” he said, “and if it’s not there, I could have veered off into the wrong path, which I’m thankful that I didn’t.”

Banks III said he and his family are proud of Banks.

“I am so proud of how resilient he has been throughout this whole process,” Banks III said.

“They (his parents) wanted him to be a productive citizen, educated, have a good job, and do what he is passionate about,” his uncle said. “He is clear on what they expected of him and what they wanted for his life. And that is what is driving him.”

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