“How many of you encourage yourself?”

It was a question that didn’t show a lot of raised hands when the motivational speaker, Mary Banos, asked it of students at Paul Mitchell School in Dallas during her speech on “The Power of Encouragement” on March 9.

Banos is a Prosper resident and the author of the book “One Life at a Time: The Power of Encouragement.” She advocates encouragement and letting go of the past to obtain a better future.

In her speech, Banos expressed her childhood struggles of neglect abuse and abusive parents, and how that established who she is today. She also shared stories of people who overcame cultural, physical and financial obstacles.

One story she shared was that of a hairstylist who was let go from a high-end salon. The stylist lost confidence after losing a job he loved. Eventually, he would reach his dream of being a hairstylist again. He encouraged himself to learn from his mistakes and overcome his past, Banos said.

Banos advocates encouraging others, but also empowering yourself, no matter how tough life. She herself overcame obstacles she faced growing up. She said she believes it is possible.

Banos explained that she suffered a tough childhood. She was born to a 16-year-old, in Miami, who left her abusive father for another abusive man. She moved to Georgia when she was 2, and at 9, she moved to Dallas.

Growing up, Banos dealt with depression and suicidal attempts. She wasn’t alone in her struggles, but she stayed out of trouble. Unlike her brothers, 3 out of 4 of them were in and out of jail, and one of them, Charles, committed suicide in 2009. Her other two brothers have been serving time in jail for the last 27 years, and still have a long way to go, she said.

“Charles was the opposite of who I was,” Banos told the Prosper Press, adding that whenever something negative happened, she changed it to positive, but her brother always let the negative take him over.

Unlike her parents, Banos finished high school and also went to college, where she let herself become the individual she said she was meant to be. She said she found a lot of encouragement through her friends in college. She had a hard time talking about her feelings, but one night, one conversation made everything better when she opened up to her friend about her depression. Banos said she realized how much better she felt when in exchange for sharing her emotions, she received encouragement.

“One Life at a Time,” was published in 2013. Banos said she wanted to write a book because she was inspired by encouragement, and how it can teach one to live a happy life. Banos gives motivational speeches to help people heal so they don’t have to live in their past.

Mary Banos has been invited to speak at women shelters to empower women. She also speaks to students on how to prevent their pasts from dictating their futures.

Being neglected as a child, Banos recognizes the hardships and the help children need. She has been a foster parents for total of 12 girls in the past. To this day, she still keeps in touch with a few of them.

Luz Nicanor is one of the girls who Banos fostered. Luz remembered the tough times she was going through as kid, and Banos, as her foster mother, helped her heal.

“She makes you feel like you’ve known her for years,” Luz said. “She changed me emotionally, and motivated me to be independent.”

Banos said her dream is to help other people reach their dream, despite the challenges they face. She intends to continue her work of helping individuals empower themselves.

“If each person took one moment every day to give another person a compliment or word of encouragement, it could change the world,” Banos said.