Program Guidelines

The CBAI Foundation for Community Banking provides monetary awards for top high-school seniors statewide. The total award available this year by the Foundation is $21,000. These awards help deserving students highlight the importance of community banking to the local economy. You could win up to $4,000 for higher education, and your school is eligible to win $500!

Judges will select the top essays statewide written by high-school seniors who best capture the following theme: What is a community bank and how does it affect the economy?

Judges will be looking for an understanding of what a community bank is and its role in the local economy. The essay should emphasize the philosophy of community banking but MAKE NO REFERENCE TO A SPECIFIC BANK, BANKER, NOR CITY. 

Competition: The competition is open to Illinois high school seniors and is sponsored by a CBAI member bank; it is not based on financial need. Students must be U.S. citizens and residents of Illinois. Student bank employees, plus the immediate families of any bank’s employees, board members, and CBAI employees, are ineligible. Students are asked to write a one-page essay theme (not to exceed one page in length), double-spaced using the font Times New Roman with 10-12-point size. Do not submit your essay to more than one bank, or you will be disqualified.

Researching the Essay: Contestants will find that the most meaningful research about the subject will be gained from a tour of a local community bank and an interview with a bank officer.

EssaysAn original and two copies of the assignment, the Official Application, and the Background Information Forms are to be submitted to the sponsoring bank. A special committee at the bank will review all manuscripts and select the local contest winners, if applicable, and send as many essays to the CBAI Foundation for the statewide competition as the bank is allowed.

Entry IntegrityEssays must be written entirely by the student, without additional correction, grading, or enhancement by any other party, including teachers and parents. Students may not collaborate with one another. Students may not view other students’ work prior to submission. Using the Wikipedia definition of a community bank will result in points being taken off. Violation of any of these rules will be cause for ineligibility of the essay.

Judging CriteriaJudges will use the following criteria to evaluate each essay: understanding of the community banking philosophy, accurate information, clear and concise sentences, logical organization, proper grammar, correct punctuation and spelling, and conclusion/summary.

DeadlineEssays must be received by the CBAI Foundation via the sponsoring bank by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 3, 2023, to be eligible for judging. Check with the local sponsoring bank for its preliminary judging deadline (February 26). Essays received by the CBAI Foundation after March 3 will not be accepted for judging. NOTE: Semi-finalists will be required to present their submission to a community group of no fewer than five individuals; the purpose is to increase the understanding of our profession. Semi-finalists will also sign an intent form indicating they intend to continue their education at a college, university, or accredited trade school.

Scholarship AmountsMonetary awards will be given in addition to any other grants or awards the student may receive and will be made directly to the winners. However, the winner must sign a statement that they will use the award to further their education. The monetary awards awarded for the overall winner will be $1,000 per year for up to four years of higher education, with up to 11 additional awards of $1,000 and up to 12 second-place awards of $500 each, depending on the quality of the essays. A check for $500 will be presented to the winning student's school. Non-monetary “Honorable Mentions” may also be awarded.

Entry Assignment


What is a community bank, and how does it affect the economy?

(Length of the essay is not to exceed one page; double spaced, using Times New Roman font, and 10-12-point size)

Program Checklist


  • You complete the Student Application and Background Information Sheet. 
  • You submit one page on the theme (not to exceed one page in length), double-spaced, using Times New Roman font, and 10-12-point size.
  • The names of a specific bank, banker, and/or city are NOT in your essay. 
  • Your name is NOT on the essay; Only on the Student Application and Background Information Sheet.
  • You send TWO copies of the essay.
  • Include your e-mail address and cell phone number (if applicable). 
  • Your submission should be made through a CBAI member bank.

    You may not submit an entry to more than one bank, or you will be disqualified


  • Be double-spaced 
  • Not exceed one page in length
  • Be in Times New Roman font 
  • Be in 10-12-point size 
  • Be sponsored by only one CBAI Member Bank