Profiles of Members of EPA's LGBT Community: Sherry Banks
Office of Site Remediation and Restoration
Boston, MA (EPA Region 1)
Where were you born?
I was born in South Carolina. My mom was in the U.S. Army so we traveled extensively during my childhood. After she retired, I continued to travel through study abroad programs, which shaped my character and world view. I have now lived in Boston longer than any other place in the world and have decided to call it my home.
What brought you to EPA?
I successfully began my career through the Student Intern Program while finishing my graduate degree. My internship focused on Environmental Stewardship, specifically the Water Technical Unit. I loved my intern position. I was able to go out in the field, assist on multiple projects and shadow others. This opportunity provided me with a great understanding of the different jobs EPA has to offer (not just science).
Describe the type of work you do at EPA.
I wear many hats. My duties include coordinating and performing emergency response actions to manmade, industrial, and natural disasters. For example, I helped the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in hazardous waste removal and debris cleanup as a result of hurricanes Irene and Sandy. I also was deployed to Minot, North Dakota on another FEMA assignment to collect more than 110,000 containers of hazardous waste after the Souris River flooding. Some of my day to day tasks include working on climate change adaptation and mapping, addressing removal sites, and collaborating with non-profit organizations and local, state, and federal agencies. I'm actively engaged in the work in our region, where I serve as a member of the Human Resources Council.
What is your highest level of education? What was your major?
I have a master of science degree in environmental earth and ocean science with a focus on physical and biological oceanography.
When did you know you were a member of the LBGT community?
I have somewhat known since elementary school but I didn’t really have a full understanding until high school. I didn’t come out until college due to the area I was living in at the time. Once in college, I was able to reach out to the LGBT community and form bonds with others that were like me. This experience was life changing and provided a sense of community and belonging. I am happy to see more and more LGBT awareness and allies in schools and places of business. I even see tiny rainbow flags displayed on my fellow EPA co-workers’ desks.
What message would you like to send other members of the LBGT community who are considering college or a career in environmental protection?
If your passion and focus is in the sciences, I would definitely recommend applying for internship positions with federal, state, or local government or a non-profit organization. All of these groups work together to protect the environment and internships are a great way to find your fit.