Monica Banks

Last updated: 2010

Monica Banks

2010 Beat the Odds Honoree

After losing her mother to cancer, Hsiao-Wei Monica (who goes by Monica) realized that she had to be a “soldier” for her family. With no knowledge of the whereabouts of her estranged father, she set out to stay strong and be a role model for her younger brother. Monica was placed in the foster care system, far from her school, friends, biological family, and the cultural and familial traditions that nurtured her when her mother was alive.

Nonetheless, Monica refused to be an “at-risk” foster youth. She has stayed focused on education, and since the 9th grade has excelled in all subject areas with a 3.8 GPA. As a sophomore, Monica was selected as a 2009 Warren Christopher Scholar, one of eight scholars chosen from a pool of gifted and talented students in the Los Angeles Unified School District. As a junior, she enrolled in a number of Advanced Placement classes.

Monica has used the pain in her life as motivation to make a positive impact on others. Inspired by her mother’s battle with cancer, Monica plans to become an oncologist who treats every patient with compassion. “My dream is to find a cure for cancer so that no person will have to go through the same tribulation my family and I have been through,” she asserts. Monica is driven to excel both academically and personally: “I learned that the most important thing to do when going through any life change is to remain positive and optimistic. I learned that with every exigency, there is always something good that will come out of it.” The Children’s Defense Fund feels that Monica is an ideal 2010 Beat the Odds Award recipient.