Two local students included in Benchmark scholarships

Published 11:23 am Friday, May 26, 2023

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Ten high school seniors recently received a gift that will make things a bit easier at college. Benchmark Community Bank gave each one $1,000 to help with the cost of school. The scholarship focuses on applicants’ demonstrated commitment to community and school involvement. An essay portion captures applicant perspectives on the importance of supporting one’s community through volunteerism. The application round opened on Dec. 23, 2022 and closed on Feb. 19.

The annual SmartStart Community Commitment Scholarship is named for the bank’s SmartStart money management program, designed for ages 13-17.

Recipients selected from a field of eighty-two applicants for the bank’s $mart$tart Community Commitment Scholarship, include:

• Logan Ashworth, Central High School, Lunenburg County

• Mekhi Reese, Central High School, Lunenburg County

• Trey Comer, Halifax County High School, Halifax County

• Ram Joaquin de Vera, Halifax County High School, Halifax County

• Meredith Greene, Brunswick Academy, Brunswick County

• Brittany Hazelwood, Halifax County High School, Halifax County

• Jerry (Trey) Mitchell III, Brunswick Academy, Brunswick County

• Preston Simpson, Halifax County High School, Halifax County

• Cassidy Smith, Brunswick Academy, Brunswick County

• Morgan Stanley, Greensville County High School, Greensville County

“These 10 seniors have been recognized because of their exemplary service to several community organizations, as well as involvement and leadership in multiple extracurricular activities at their high schools,” Benchmark President/CEO Jay A. Stafford said in a statement. “We need young people like these to further their education and return to their hometowns to contribute their skills and talents for the future of our region. It is Benchmark’s privilege to help these students succeed.”

The goal for the SmartStart money management program is to help young people build solid skills to pave the way to a secure financial future as adults, added Benchmark Executive Vice President/Chief Banking Officer LeAnne Emert.

“After the program was launched, we began hearing remarkable stories about how students were contributing to their schools and communities,” she added. “As an organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in the communities we serve, we believe these student efforts should be rewarded. That was the inspiration for development of the SmartStart scholarship program. We are so proud of these students and look forward to how they will continue to contribute to their communities.”


Benchmark Community Bank, founded in 1971, is headquartered in Kenbridge, and operates seventeen locations throughout Southside Virginia and northern North Carolina. Annually since 2007, American Banker magazine has named Benchmark as one of the Top 200 Community Banks out of nearly 4,750 community banks in the nation. To learn more about Benchmark, please visit