STRASBURG – Seventeen high school seniors with dreams of business and higher education spent Wednesday morning at First Bank in Strasburg, learning about finance and preparing for a scholarship essay.

Students from all over Virginia attend bank days and are eligible for one of 13 scholarships based on the essays they write about their experience. One student from each region will receive an honorable mention award of $1,000, each regional winner will receive a $2,500 scholarship, and the statewide winner will receive a $5,000 scholarship.

Jessica Orellana is a senior at John Handley High School in Winchester and a teller for First Bank. She said it was interesting to learn more about the business she works for.

“I kind of just did it for scholarship money and to learn more about banking, even though I’m a teller,” Orellana said. “It was kind of nice to see this kind of perspective of the bank that I do work for.”

Orellana and her colleagues learned about the role that community banks play in areas such as the Shenandoah Valley as well as how banks actually make money. Executive Vice President of First Bank Shane Bell, taught the students about the similarities of how banks and people assess investments and how they look at making money.

Kasey Keeler, a senior at John Handley High School, said she has taken nearly every business class her school offers and she plans on majoring in finance or economics when she goes to college next year.

“I thought it was really interesting to learn that even though the banking industry is consolidating, profits are staying the same,” Keeler said. “It’s kind of disheartening to see that bigger banks are getting’s great to see the community involvement with community banking.”

Dennis Dysart, president and chief operating officer of First Bank, said community banking is vital for small communities.

“We love interacting with these young men and women, and getting the opportunity to talk to them not just about community banking but about small business,” Dysart said. “Local communities are impacted when we’re out there using national businesses.”

Orellana echoed Dysart’s comments, noting there is an important role that local banks fill that bigger institutions neglect.

“I feel like smaller banks have more of that personal touch than bigger banks do,” she said. “They don’t want to learn their customers while smaller banks have the chance.”

The Virginia Bankers Association will announce winners in May and scholarships can be used for both universities and community colleges.

– Contact Max Thornberry at