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40 named to this year’s Student Advisory Board

According to The Citizens Bank of Swainsboro, 40 students—15 from Swainsboro High School, 17 from Emanuel County Institute, and eight from David Emanuel Academy—have been named to this year’s prestigious Student Advisory Board. This year’s board recently had their class photo taken by Mark Williams Studio. Pictured in the photo with this article are the 40 honorees on the 2020-2021 Student Advisory Board.

Among those chosen from Swainsboro High are: Jada Armstrong, Phoebe Durden, Jaylee Justice, Tyler Kelly, Etta Key, Andrew Lamb, Steven Kirby, Caroline Mason, Malina Mckinzie, Gracee Miller, Abigayle Roberts, Cedric Seabrough, Fredrick Seabrough, Mackenzie Terry, and Jessica Wingate.

ECI’s selectees include: Destiny Akridge, Kaitlyn Arnold, Jack Davis, Robert Fortner, Madison Grimm, Sarah Kersey, Breana Librizzi, Jaci Martin, Emma Mason, Molly McBride, Taylor Radford, Morgan Rehberg, Audrey Rich, Jesley Snellgrove, Morgan Taylor, Alexis Wiggins, and Zade Williford.

Finally, DEA’s list of honorees is comprised of: Dane Arrington, Jordyn Bell, Annakade Clemens, Elizabeth Dye, Hannah Goodman, Carrie Newsome, Kaitlyn Reininger, and Rachel Shaw.

About the Student Advisory Board

The Student Advisory Board has been up and going in the community for years, but how much does the public really know about it? How did the program start? How are students chosen? What do the selectees gain from being a part of the Student Advisory Board? The Chronicle conducted a phone interview with Leck Boatright to find out all that and more.

According to Boatright, Citizens Bank’s Student Advisory Board program was started in the early 2000s for qualifying seniors in Laurens County school systems. Citizens Bank of Emanuel County took note from their sister bank’s success and started their own program shortly after. The Citizens Bank Student Advisory Board aims to foster both financial literacy and appreciation of community in high school seniors of Emanuel County.

Citizens Bank has a selective application and interview process. Students apply in March of their junior year, and Citizens Bank usually sees 60 to 70 applicants from all three high schools of Emanuel County. Outstanding applicants are interviewed in June by an outsourced party, and the selection of 35 to 40 students is finalized in July. The selection process is very difficult. Boatright explains, “They are all the ‘cream of the crop,’ the top students. It’s very hard to choose.”

Applicants are evaluated based on academic excellence but also their involvement, application details, and interview. The Citizens Bank Student Advisory Board seeks well-rounded students who give back to their school and community.

New board members attend their first meetings in September every year. During their first meeting, they have a photo session with Mark Williams Studio. Members of each of the three schools take a photo and then all of the board as one. These photos are used for the yearbook and bank advertisements. Members are also asked to open a checking account with Citizens Bank, which they are later taught how to use throughout the program. Each month, the board listens to speakers, participates in events, or does community service. Every project and program planned for the board members are intended to teach them useful life skills.

The Citizens Bank Advisory Board uses events and speakers to teach students about both finances, community dynamics, and other general life skills. For example, in the past years, Citizens Bank of Swainsboro President Milton Gray has taught students about budgeting and taking control of finances. Swainsboro City Administrator Al Lawson and Swainsboro-Emanuel County Chamber of Commerce CEO Ken Warnock have explained city and county government as well as the chamber of commerce. The sheriff’s office has demonstrated an active shooter program, and Shari Watt has encouraged community service and informed students about the animal shelter. The bank has even hosted Secret Service agents, who have taught an identity theft seminar. Every meeting is aimed at preparing students for the future in different ways.

In February, the Student Advisory Board visits East Georgia State College, where they participate in a college preparatory program. They learn about grants, FAFSA, college applications, and other aspects of higher education. The college application process is confusing and time-consuming, and East Georgia State College’s preparatory program intends to help students “stay on top of it.”

The Student Advisory Board encourages participation in community events such as the fall festival, the Pine Tree Festival, and the Christmas parade. As a reward, the bank hosts a Christmas dinner and graduation banquet for the students during the year. Held near the end of the members’ senior year, the advisory board invited parents and students to a dinner, where students receive a participation certificate and are recognized among their peers.

The Citizens Bank Advisory Board has not been able to participate in their usual activities over the past year due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, this year, the bank selected their seniors for the year in the late fall and recently were able to do the yearly photo session with Mark Williams Studio for the upcoming class. They intend to continue the advisory board safely through the next year.

Boatright encourages students to apply for the program because it is a “learning experience that will benefit them in the future for financial success but also life learning experience. It is an opportunity for leadership training and to promote community involvement.”

The ultimate goal, however, is to incentivize students to contemplate why it’s important to consider coming back to Emanuel County after getting their education because there are opportunities here.

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