EDINBURG — McAllen Memorial alum Draik Banks capped off a successful collegiate volleyball career this year as a senior with UTRGV, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology.
Now, she has been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, via UTRGV’s ROTC program.
Originally from McAllen, Banks transferred back home to UTRGV from Niagara for her final two years. With the support of her family, she joined ROTC with her future in mind.
UTRGV’s ROTC program prepares its students for the responsibilities of an officer in the Army, Army Reserves or Army National Guard following graduation.
“My stepfather was educating me on what the benefits of joining and serving my country would be for me,” Banks said. “Joining the military was definitely my choice, and I thought it would be best for a long-term career path. Not only would I be able to gain knowledge that would help me lead a more successful life later, but also, I would be able to get an education. I would be able to see and travel the world. I would be able to give to my community and the country through my service.”
Playing volleyball at UTRGV helped Banks prepare for the physical requirements of ROTC, and gave her the ability to work in a team and lead others to victory.
“Without volleyball, I don’t think I would have actually joined ROTC,” Banks said. “I keep in physical shape through volleyball, and it has actually formed me into a better cadet by just being in that type of environment, working with others and leading on the court. It actually translates very well to leading others in the field and leading others, perhaps, in combat.”
Banks was a leader throughout her two years at UTRGV, serving as one of the vocal members of the volleyball team during matches and in practice. She led cheers from the bench and was always ready when called upon.
She also was a big part of the middle blocker rotation. She averaged 1.10 kills and 0.61 blocks, while hitting .310 to help the Vaqueros win the Western Athletic Conference Championship as a junior in 2018.
This past season, Banks averaged 0.94 kills and 0.67 blocks while hitting .271.
“Once I graduate and commission, I will be going straight into whatever billet the Army assigns me,” Banks said. “Hopefully, it’s a physical therapist route and I’ll join PT school, training to become a physical therapist for the Army.”