The road to prosperity was not an easy one for Korey Banks. The two-time University of South Carolina alumnus (B.S. Sport and Entertainment Management ’00, MBA ’04) remembers the hurdles he had to overcome, and the people who helped him along the way. Now he is paying forward to help current students, and those to come.
Banks has made a generous donation to establish the Korey Banks Family Endowed Scholarship Fund within the UofSC College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management. The scholarship will support students majoring in sport and entertainment management, with a particular focus on helping underrepresented student populations and socioeconomically disadvantaged students.
Banks, now a financial advisor with Edward Jones, grew up in Hollis, Queens, New York. He knows firsthand the struggles of growing up in a low-income, inner-city neighborhood.
“My family grew up on welfare. I can remember standing in lines trying to get food stamps and powdered milk because we didn't have food in the refrigerator,” Banks says. “So it means a lot to me to be able to, in a small, small way, give something back to someone who may walk the same path that I walked years ago.”
Banks’ path led him from Hollis to South Carolina after aptitude test results in high school recommended a career in sport management. Research on the University of South Carolina’s top-ranked sport and entertainment management program led him to apply and earn admission. Then came the challenge of paying the bills. Though none had great wealth to offer, helpers made it possible for him to achieve his goals.
“My cost of going to school as an out-of-state student was significant,” Banks says. “I can remember some family members helping with tuition, some family members making sure I had sneakers to wear, some family members helping with food, kind of pooling resources. Then when I came across a scholarship, very similar to what I'm offering now, it changed my life even further.”
Banks also found a new extended family ready to welcome him to Columbia. Faculty and staff gave the support he needed as a young man far from home on his own for the first time.
“If it weren't for the University of South Carolina, Tina Weaver, the staff there, all the teachers, everyone I met there took me in,” he says. “I didn't know anyone. I came here by myself. My family dropped me off. Everyone thought I was crazy. I didn't really know how to wash clothes. I remember reading the back of the detergent container, trying to figure all those things out.”
Banks’ career got a boost from another helper, the late Ike McLeese, longtime president of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. He became a mentor to Banks and suggested he consider a career in finance. He helped arrange interviews which led to a job with NBSC for Banks.
Banks later combined his sport management and finance talents as a premium sales executive with the Dallas Cowboys (where he was one of 35 hires out of a pool of 5,000 candidates). After building his career he decided to move with his wife to start a family in South Carolina, where he now works for Edward Jones in the Charleston area. Things are good now for Banks and the future is bright, but he never forgets the struggles and never forgets the helpers. He has become one and hopes to see others do the same.
“I would challenge anyone to help someone else in any way, shape, form, or fashion that they can,” he says. “It doesn't have to be an endowment or a scholarship. If you see someone asking for food and you just got a happy meal, give them your french fries. If you just left the supermarket, give them some of your bushel of bananas. Help out in any way you can, until you can help out in the matter that you may want to. There's always someone out there who needs support. If you have the opportunity to offer it to them, please do.”