by Danielle Wagner
WATERLOO (KWWL) Cortaz Banks just graduated from Waterloo East High.
He said he knew changes needed to be made in his life when he got into a fight and someone broke his jaw.
It was at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Black Hawk County he found safety and motivation.
"It kept me off the streets. If it wasn't for the Boys and Girls Club. I don't know where I would be right now," said Cortaz Banks.
Now, he's employed by the Boys and Girls Club as a junior staff member.
"Really trying to be a mentor to the kids because I made it through a lot and I know if I make it anybody can make it," said Banks.
After being identified by staff, Banks applied for Youth of the Year for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Iowa.
He got recommendation letters, wrote a couple of essays and even gave a speech to the Iowa State Senate.
After all that, Banks was selected as Iowa's Youth of the Year.
"I was shell shocked. It was something I didn't think I could do, but I did it and I'm still coming off the high,"
Director of Operations Shirley Greer said Banks is involved in the community, the club and he maintained good grades in school.
She said the club is proud of him, and hopes others can learn from his experiences.
"There are a lot of obstacles young people have to overcome. If you have people who believe in you and a place you feel safe, you can be or do whatever you want to do, and I think Cortaz is a living example of that," said Shirley Greer.
Cortaz Banks competes in regionals in July.
If he does well there, he continues onto the National Youth of the Year competition.
Reporter: Danielle Wagner