Corporate executives. Medical professionals. Nonprofit managers.
One club in Rogers, Arkansas, has helped shape thousands of youth into future business and community leaders in these career fields and countless more during the past four-plus decades: the Rogers Student Bank Board.
“When Dr. Bland and Dr. Woodruff started the Student Bank Board, their vision involved promoting leadership and independent thinking,” said Jerry Vest, market executive for Regions Bank in Rogers. “If you attend a meeting today, it’s clear that both of these values are still alive and present.”
Regions Bank and its predecessor financial institutions have supported the Student Bank Board program from day one. The program originated at Rogers High School in 1980, expanding to Rogers Heritage High School in 2008.
Membership in the interactive group requires participating in an in-depth interview process conducted by current Bank Board members.
“These students are the best of the best in the Rogers School System,” explained Vest. “I am continually impressed with the level of confidence they convey in their communications. It is an elite group each year.”
Vest and Northwest Arkansas consumer banking manager Troy Dryzga are actively involved with the group, which teaches problem-solving and decision-making skills. But let there be no doubt about the fact that this is a student-led organization.
“This is their board,” said Dryzga. “Everyone has a voice, but they collaborate to shape their experience and their impact on the community. They’re also in charge of securing guest speakers. The students take it very seriously. They want it to be special.”
The Student Bank Board also promotes philanthropic service opportunities, including Mercy Health Foundation’s annual Charity Ball, which raises funds for hospital services and equipment. Other projects include volunteering at an assisted living facility, adopting a holiday family through Sharing & Caring of Benton County and more.
Each year, Regions awards a $1,000 college scholarship to one Student Bank Board participant from each high school. We caught up with 2021 scholarship recipients Christian Francisco (Rogers High School) and Tana Graser (Rogers Heritage High School) to discuss what the Student Bank Board meant to them and learn more about what’s on their horizon.
What’s your favorite memory from your Student Bank Board experience?
Christian: My favorite memory is volunteering at the Mercy Hospital Charity Ball. We helped set up and organize the event, but my favorite part was serving as a valet for event guests. We got to drive Teslas, G-Wagons, Porsches and all types of nice cars! Best of all, we were able to donate all the tips we received to Mercy.
Tana: My favorite memory is also the Mercy Ball. Working this event was not just a way to do good for our community, but also a great bonding experience for the Bank Board students.
What did you learn about yourself and your fellow classmates through your Student Bank Board participation?
Christian: Student Bank Board helped me realize I have better communication skills than I gave myself credit for. It forced me out of my comfort zone in reaching out to people to get things done while I served as the club president this past year. It also helped me feel comfortable in business and professional settings and increased my confidence exponentially.
Tana: I learned about leadership and community. I also learned what it means to be a mentor during my senior year. Being in a club that brings together the two Rogers schools also taught me to be more open to getting to know and working with my peers. It reminded me that there are great leaders and truly great people at every school who are involved in many activities.
What insights did you gain from working with Troy Dryzga and Jerry Vest?
Christian: Troy and Mr. Vest have been incredible sponsors of our Board. Not only have they supported us financially so that we can partake in so many events, they also sacrificed countless hours outside of work to support us. I speak for the rest of the Board when I say we are truly grateful for the time they sacrificed away from their families and home lives to ensure our Board ran smoothly. Troy also taught me how to work with a business partner in order to organize our meetings and events.
Tana: Troy Dryzga and Jerry Vest were amazing to work with. They always brought such good points to our meetings and will always be great mentors in my eyes!
What was your favorite high school subject?
Christian: Math – I love the concreteness and applicability of math to everyday life.
Tana: For me, it was Psychology. I loved that course so much! The leader who taught it made it so enjoyable. It was a class that made you want to know more and more.
Tell us more about your plans. What are you studying and what career field are you pursuing?
Christian: I’m studying mechanical engineering at Rice University. I plan to use this degree to enter into the aerospace field and innovate tomorrow’s future. In addition to my studies, I also play football for the Rice Owls.
Tana: I am currently studying at Missouri Southern State University to pursue a career in the dental hygiene field.
What did receiving the Regions Student Bank Board scholarship mean to you?
Christian: Receiving the Bank Board scholarship was a very special honor. It has helped my family and I afford the expensive cost of college and aided me in pursuing my dreams.
Tana: Receiving the Bank Board Scholarship was a complete surprise and honor. There were so many great candidates, so when I got it, I felt special. I didn’t hold a leadership position in the club but was very involved with all of the events. This scholarship is a great help to the cost of working toward my dream career, so thank you so much again!