Meet Our Alumni
Jake Banton’s decision to pursue a career in architecture was cemented in high school, after volunteering with Old North St. Louis Restoration Group. “It was 2010 and they were completing the redevelopment of the 14th Street Mall,” he says. “I was amazed looking at the before pictures and how these buildings had been brought back from the brink of collapse. I knew I wanted to help give places like this a new lease on life.” After graduating college he fulfilled this promise, returning to St. Louis to work and give back to the city where he grew up.
What drew you to the Emerging Leaders program?
Many of the leaders in my firm have been through FOCUS’ Leadership St. Louis program, and they encouraged me to apply for Emerging Leaders. I was attracted to FOCUS’ mission of civic engagement in the region, so I thought the program would be a good fit and a chance to connect with other like-minded folks.
The events in Ferguson that rocked the nation exposed our most vulnerable weaknesses. Now is the time to change our city for the better, and the Emerging Leaders program offers a unique place to connect with passionate people who care about the success of their city and who are driven to make the change that they want to see happen.
What was your biggest take-away?
St. Louis can seem like a small city, where you see the same people over and over again. Getting to know these other individuals, each with their own passions and interests opened up the vast offerings and amazing things our city has. It made me realize that if you have a passion for something, whatever it is, there is likely somewhere in this city you can take that passion and run with it.
That is the amazing thing about FOCUS, it has such a large and diverse group of alumni that there is likely a connection through one of those people to everything happening in St. Louis.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently finishing up the last couple of tests I need to take to become a licensed architect. In my free time, I volunteer with the Young Leaders of the Construction Forum at Kingdom House, where we do construction-related afterschool activities with the children.
St. Louis is a city that has had many corners to turn and we still have a few to go. Five years from now, I hope to still be as involved as I am in the local community and finding ways to help out and volunteer when I can.