Students get crash course in banking

Douglas Arthur, chairman of the board of directors for First Bank, shares a brief history lesson on banking in the United States. Henry Culvyhouse/Daily

STRASBURG — Fourteen local high school seniors got an inside look into the banking industry Tuesday.

The seniors, from Central, Skyline, Handley and Strasburg, visited First Bank’s “operations center” on Borden Mowery Drive in the Northern Shenandoah Valley Commercial and Industrial Park for Virginia Bank Day, which is celebrated on the third Tuesday in March.

The seniors attended lectures and seminars about the banking industry, how to plan’s one’s financial future through a community bank and job interviewing skills.

For instance, Shane Bell, chief financial officer for the bank, gave a lecture on the banking industry and quizzed the kids, rewarding them small pieces of candy when they correctly answered a question.

This event was the second year First Bank has sponsored the event. The students, which all had to have a 3.0 or higher grade point average, were picked by their schools to attend the event. After the event, the students will write essays about what they learned and submit them to the Virginia Bankers Association Educational Foundation, where they can win up to $6,000 in scholarships.

First Bank Chief Financial Officer Shane Bell quizzes students on the ins and outs of the banking industry. Henry Culvyhouse/Daily

Elaine Mintschenko, the human resources manager with the bank, said the event was great way for students to meet “higher ups” with the bank.

“It was important for us to have the higher ups come in and meet with these high school students because how often do you get meet with the chairman of the board, the chief operations officer and the CFO?” Mintschenko said.

Mintschenko added, “We just wanted to give the students a broad overview of community banking because sometimes you really don’t know what all happens with banking and how it touches their everyday lives.”

Before breaking for a pizza lunch, Douglas Arthur, chairman of the board of directors, delivered a lecture on the importance of community banking and a brief history on the nation’s banking system.

“A community bank is big enough to meet your needs but small enough to know your name,” Arthur said to the students. “That’s all part of the propaganda of community banks, but it’s not propaganda in the negative sense. All propaganda is just getting your message out there and showing how your product is better than somebody else.”

Arthur added, “Now, with that said, I can tell you I totally believe in the advantages of community, small town banks … I’ve been on the board since 1972 and have seen a lot of changes, but I still maintain that community banks are one of the most important institutions in our country.”

Dennis Dysart, a senior vice president with the bank, said not only was the event an opportunity for students to gain a scholarship, but for the bank to work with the area’s youth.

“I absolutely love working with kids,” Dysart said. “Kids are just amazing … looking back 25,26 years ago, when I graduated high school, I feel like these kids are twice as bright as I was … they’re just phenomenal.”

Cody Sager, 18, of Central High School, said while he came to the event for the scholarship opportunity, he did end up learning a lot about the financial sector.

“I’ve definitely learned what goes on behind the scenes,” Sager said. “One thing that stands out to me is that there are four banks that hold 50 percent of the money in the world: JP Morgan-Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Citi Group … I didn’t know that until today.”

Hunter Dean, 18, of Strasburg High School, said he learned some practical tips from the event.

“They talked to us about loans, about how community banks give out 40 percent of all loans in the U.S.,” Dean said. “That’s good, because when I need a loan, I’ll know where to go and have a more one-on-one conversation with people I trust and know.”

Jackie Trabosh, 18, of Handley High School, said she learned a lot about the history of banking.

“History, I think, is really important because you should know where you started and where you’re going,” she said. “I never knew about things like gross profit, how banks make their money, before today.”

Eric Tanner, 17, of Skyline High School, said he learned “financial stability.”

“I learned how to make good choices in banking, how to protect ourselves financially in the real world,” Tanner said. “You make better choices by measuring how much money you have and if you can afford to do something.”

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com