The Young Writer’s Workshop: An Interview with Banks Vadeboncoeur

By Wyatt Buckner


Tell me about yourself! Who are you?

My name is Banks. I just turned 17 this Monday and I go to high school in Florida.


What is the mission of the Young Writers Workshop?

The Young Writers Workshop is a youth-led summer program dedicated to fostering a love for creative writing and reading among underserved children in Jacksonville, Florida. Concluding the workshop, each child composes their own short story which is then published, printed, and delivered to their home.


When was the moment you decided to start the Young Writers Workshop?

It started when I started getting involved in activism and writing in 8th grade. Every student in my journalism class was required to do a project on C-Span student cam competition about any global issue you care about. I had never done film before but did a project on racial inequality in the healthcare system and came in third. It inspired me and opened my eyes to the change I could make. I started my non-profit, Young Voices For Change, a non-profit focused on creating a space for young people to speak up. Riley’s Way reached out to me about the Call For Kindness and I always liked to write and work with kids so I thought, “we should create a writing camp for underserved communities.”


What has the reception been like for the Young Writers Workshop? What was the moment you realized you had really made a difference?

This boy named Croy who was in his second year of the program, always posted his book on his instagram, and he was such a character in the classroom. One day a local publication called “News for Jacks” Came in and interviewed him during this last book signing and he got his own video highlight. He was so excited and happy and it just showed how much kids love to learn.


How has Riley’s Way helped you along your journey?

Riley’s Way has helped in so many ways, personally and with the project. The funding was obviously extremely helpful, but the monthly zoom meetings are fantastic as well. They helped me gain other sponsors and connect with high schoolers in my community. I met this one girl at a retreat named Sria, who works with girls in STEM. She showed me how to get in contact with local news outlets, and her help let me get News For Jacks there to interview Croy in the first place.


What do you do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies or interests?

In my free time I write for newspapers. I recently got into film and made some short films for my cross country team. I am also the video editor for Media Wise. An organization that teaches young people how to detect and deal with misinformation. I really like that whole field of journalism. I also enjoy thrifting.


What is one fun fact about you?

This kind of sounds personal but something I notice about myself is that I’m always looking for new things to do. That’s why my organization has done all sorts of different projects. When I was interested in clothing we did a clothing swap.


What does kindness mean to you?

Seeing other people and giving them the opportunity to see them as a clean slate and being able to step out of yourself. My parents have always told me to embrace active listening, embracing what someone else is saying. Everyone goes through someone different and kindness for me is embracing those differences to help us all grow and make us self aware.


Do you have any role models that taught you kindness?

My parents, my uncle, and my grandparents. My parents especially taught me to be aware of other people and to be empathetic.


What does Riley’s Way mean to you? Has that changed over the years at all?

Rileys Way means a community to me. They will always be there and I feel like I have so much support from them. They are doing so many cool things and going on their retreats, I have met so many amazing people. I always feel I have a family there if I need help to get on my feet.


When was a moment where you felt like it was too much? What advice do you have for other changemakers and students who could be going through that right now?

It is stressful, but you should step back and realize that the only good is coming from your actions, and that if you like what you’re doing there’s nothing to be stressed about. You should always make sure that your nonprofit is something you want to do.


Why do you stay involved in Riley’s way as an alumni?

Definitely the opportunities Riley’s Way gives me. It is so helpful at promoting us and their support system is amazing. I want to and feel I owe it to them to be a part of Riley’s Way. Their community is so amazing and is full of people I want to keep in my life. I do it because I want to.


What do you see for the future of the Young Writers Workshop? What do you see in the future for yourself?

I’m planning to do it again this summer for 3 weeks – hopefully getting 120 young authors. I’ll really have to think about how to keep it going when I’m gone. I have many younger board members who can take over and I want to keep it going for sure. In terms of life, I want to be my own boss and run a non-profit. In some form I would like to continue my journalism.


How can people reach out to help?

You will find Young Voices for Change on google and we are “Young Voices for Change Florida” on Instagram. We have a submit section on our website and a contact form if anyone would like to help out.