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Scholarship Opportunity

HURRY - Deadline February 24th

Better Banks is excited to announce a scholarship competition that enables Illinois high-school seniors to enter a statewide essay-writing contest. It is offered as part of a program sponsored by Illinois community banks and the CBAI Foundation for Community Banking to increase public awareness of locally owned banks and their contributions to the community.

Better Banks is a member of the Community Bankers Association of Illinois (CBAI) which formed the Foundation in 1996. A monetary award in the amount of $1,000 a year for up to four years of higher education will be awarded to the author of the best essay submitted to the CBAI Foundation by a participating Illinois high school senior. Up to 11 additional first-place $1,000 awards and 12 second place $500 awards are available in each of the regions of the state. An additional $500 will be awarded to the high school of the overall winner.

The bank is working with area High Schools to invite seniors to write a one-page essay on the theme: How has the response of community banks differed from that of the megabanks during the global pandemic?

Length of the essay must be one-page; double-spaced, using Times New Roman font, and 10-12 point size.

Information on the contest is available at the bank and the school; essays must be submitted to the bank by February 24th. The bank will then submit selected essays to the CBAI Foundation to be eligible for the statewide competition.

All Better Banks locations will be available to provide tours of the branch and provide the opportunity to interview a bank officer as part of the research needed. Please feel free to contact our Marketing Department at 309.272.2784 or stop at any branch location to make arrangements.


Student Application   Background Information

  • Program Guidelines

    The CBAI Foundation for Community Banking provides monetary awards for top high-school seniors statewide. The total awards 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: How has the response of community banks differed from that of the megabanks during the global pandemic?

    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: Competition is open to Illinois high-school seniors who are 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.

    Essays: An original and two copies of the assignment, the Official Application, and the Background Information Forms are to be submitted to a designated high-school counselor, English teacher, or other designated person at the school (if applicable). If the local school is not involved, students should return these documents to the sponsoring bank. A special local committee 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 Integrity: Essays 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. Use of the Wikipedia definition of a community bank will result in points taken off. Violation of any of these rules will be cause for ineligibility of essay.

    Judging Criteria: Judges 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.

    Deadline:  Essays must be received by the CBAI Foundation via the sponsoring bank by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2, 2022, to be eligible for judging. Check with the local sponsoring bank for its preliminary judging deadline. Essays received by the CBAI Foundation after March 2 will not be accepted for judging. NOTE: Semi-finalists will be required to make a presentation of 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 Amounts: Monetary 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 he/she will use the award to further his/her 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 overall winning student's school. Non-monetary “Honorable Mentions” may also be awarded.

  • Entry Assignment


    How has the response of community banks differed from that of the megabanks during the global pandemic?

    (Length of the essay is not to exceed one-page; doubled 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); doubled 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 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