By Alyssa Weston
The Youngstown State University Student Government Association body unanimously passed a bylaw amendment on Feb. 17 to rename the SGA Spirit Award as the Rebecca Banks Spirit Award.
The award is named for YSU graduate student Rebecca Banks, a nontraditional student who within the last decade has had consistent involvement in YSU student organizations such as Rookery Radio.
Additionally, in 2014, she was crowned YSU’s homecoming queen in honor of her son Bruce Banks who died in a drowning accident in 2012.
In an earlier article, the 58-year-old told The Jambar she considers many YSU students her daughters and sons, which has helped comfort her after her son’s death.
SGA annually presents the Spirit Award to two people for “outstanding enthusiasm for the work of the Student Government Association.”
Justin Shaughnessy, executive vice president of SGA, was inspired to rename the award after Banks during the fall 2019 semester after having a conversation with Banks and Caroline Smith, SGA president, at the opening of Maag Library’s family study room.
“This was the first time that I actually one-on-one spoke with Rebecca. … But you see her everywhere. She’s involved in everything,” he said. “And so, we talked to her for about 30 to 40 minutes, just about all the things that YSU is doing.”
After the conversation, Shaughnessy and Smith knew they needed to do something out of the ordinary to honor Banks’ contributions and dedication to YSU.
The initiative was kept a secret between Shaughnessy, Smith and the rest of the SGA executive board until the end of Monday’s SGA meeting when it was put to a vote. Before then, not even the voting body or Banks knew the award was going to be renamed.
Shaughnessy said he invited Banks to the meeting and told her she “wouldn’t want to miss it” to ensure she would come, but he wanted to surprise her during the meeting.
Because it was kept a secret, Shaughnessy said there was a chance the bylaw amendment wouldn’t get passed by the SGA body, but he was confident the body would recognize Banks’ dedication to YSU just as he and Smith had.
“Caroline and I talked about it. And I’m like, ‘You know, I’ve been here for four years, and I’ve never met one person that didn’t like Rebecca.’ … I had confidence that we would pass this,” he said.
Smith described Banks as an inspiration to campus.
“I don’t think there is anyone who has demonstrated as much spirit for the YSU community as [Banks has]. This award was a long time coming,” she said.
After the announcement, Banks thanked SGA for the honor and said YSU has brought her “the world.”
“[YSU’s] opened up so many things to me, and going to all these events, I’m always promoting like, ‘Come with me, come with me. It’s fun. You’ll learn something new. You’ll make friends,’” she said. “I just thank you so much. I’m very honored and humbled.”
According to Shaughnessy, the SGA Spirit Award was one of the only annual SGA awards that wasn’t named after somebody.
“Another thing that was, like, really important to us is that there were guidelines for this award. But it’s always nice to have somebody or something to compare it to,” he said.
“That was important for this award, especially since it’s about spirit, about involvement,” Shaughnessy added. “We should have somebody that embodies that description, you know, to guide our decision [for future award recipients].”