Special/Signature Issues » Top 40 Under 40

Kysha Banks, 34

Mental Health Therapist
The Daily Planet

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If you want to stump Kysha Banks, a mental health worker at the long running Daily Planet, a Richmond facility for the homeless and underprivileged, ask her why she works with at-risk youth, teenage mothers and grieving children. “That's a very good question,” she says. “I don't know. Our childhood shapes us, so maybe it's my way for me to make an impact. Maybe the people at the Daily Planet that I help wouldn't be there if they'd had a better childhood … if they had had someone there to help them.”

“What makes Banks unique is that her commitment to serving those in need expands beyond a 9 to 5 gig,” says her friend Monique Johnson, a former Top 40 recipient. In her off-hours, Banks volunteers at Comfort Zone Camp, a special place for youth who have experienced tragic loss; at other times, she helps coordinate resources for Henrico County drug and mental health counselors and serves as an advocacy liaison for prisoners re-entering society. “Some of these people have challenges that the rest of us don't have,” Banks says. “It's hard to get a job when you have a criminal background.”

The oldest of eight children, this Chesterfield native and Virginia Commonwealth University grad also works with FAST, a program with the Adult Career Development Center that assists teenage mothers. “The smallest gesture can really make a difference in a person's life,” she says, adding that she gets all worked up when she thinks of the challenges faced by the clients with whom she works. “There are so many people who have issues and could use assistance … there's no such thing as too much help.”

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