Positively JAX: Newtown Learning Center inspiring entrepreneurship

This month’s Positively JAX winner is using her skills and resources to give back to the community. She knows business and understands how training and support can be the difference between success and failure.

Yara Banks is a business consultant, a mom of six and a wife, and she recently added something else to her plate. She’s the new executive director of Newtown Learning Center.

I asked her where she gets her abundance of energy.

“If I’m being honest the grace of God. He keeps me sustained, keeps me going to everything that I do,” Banks said.

She’s done a lot with this nonprofit that was created in 2004. Before the pandemic, Newtown Learning Center went dormant, but it was never forgotten. A former board member approached Banks.

“He came to me, he said, ‘Hey, I know you’ve been talking about wanting another nonprofit. I have this one here. What do you think?’ And I was like, ‘OK, we could do this,’” Banks said.

With the help of a dynamic board, Newtown Learning Center has lived up to its name. It offers free OSHA certification training, job readiness programs for young adults and support for a Duval County school that needed a partner.

“I happen to be a Timucuan parent. I’ve had three kids that go through there and I know how hard it is for them to get stuff going,” Banks said.

Timucuan Elementary is a Title I school, and this year Newtown Learning Center held a huge back-to-school rally. Volunteers handed out school supplies and food, and Banks said that’s just the beginning.

“So some of the things that the principal and I have been discussing is financial literacy classes for the parents, financial literacy classes for the teachers, financial literacy for the students, entrepreneurship classes for the students like a club,” Banks said.

Banks even surprised me during this interview.

“I have won a PositivelyJAX award before for a nonprofit my husband and I had called Atlas: Access To Life Advocacy Services,” Banks said.

Yara’s husband Art had a kidney transplant and based on their experience she started a nonprofit to help others navigate the intricacies of dialysis. They won the Positively JAX award in 2016. Banks has now moved on to helping others in a way that comes naturally to her.

“Producing a generation of people who are contributing to the overall community, economically, financially, academically,” Banks said. “They’re giving their all back because they have the tools and resources to do that.”

About the Author:

Anchor on The Morning Show team and reporter specializing on health issues.