:  Applications for BayTrust’s $100,000 Dillon Scholarship fund will open next week and are expected to help dozens of Eastern Bay students with significant physical or intellectual disabilities to undertake tertiary study next year.

The unique annual scholarship fund has awarded a total of $1.85m to more than 500 Bay of Plenty students since it first began in 1990 and is the only one of its kind in New Zealand.

It’s designed to level the playing field as students with disabilities often face additional study costs compared to their able-bodied peers. It also allows recipients to concentrate on studying rather than having to work part-time or worrying about how to make ends meet.

There is no age restriction and those eligible may receive up to $5000 per year for a maximum of five years to help them obtain tertiary qualifications. Last year 57 students across the wider Bay of Plenty received financial help to pay for things like medical bills, learning aides, special equipment and transport.

Chair of the Dillon Scholarship committee, Roger Taylor, says the Dillon Scholarship was first established to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Bay Savings Bank, the forerunner of Trust Bank Bay of Plenty. It was named after the late Ray Dillon, a former Chair of the Trust Bank Bay of Plenty Board and former Mayor of Tauranga.

“Our first scholarships in 1990 awarded a total of $1800. We’re proud to have come a long way since then and it’s always inspiring to hear the aspirations of students with significant disabilities. The challenges they have to overcome just to get to class each day are incredible and BayTrust is fortunate to be able to support them in this way.”

Dillon Scholarship funds can help pay for any costs reasonably associated with tertiary study and can include course fees, books, computers and living costs. The students do not apply for an amount or specific item – instead the scholarship committee determines the amount awarded to each student, who can then use those funds however they wish.

“The beauty of this scholarship is there are no boundaries around it,” Taylor says. “The recipients can choose to use the money for whatever they need. I hope it continues well into the future and keep the original spirit of helping people with significant disabilities.

“It’s something we have right here in the Bay of Plenty that doesn’t exist anywhere else in New Zealand which is pretty special.”

The Scholarship Committee will consider applications from students whose home base is within the Bay of Plenty, and who are applying to study at university, polytechnic or other New Zealand-based institutions in a course recognised by NZQA or equivalent.

Applications for the Dillon Scholarship open next Tuesday (1 October) and will close on 6 December 2019 for the 2020 academic year. Bay of Plenty students who have a medically-recognised significant disability can apply on-line by visiting http://www.baytrust.org.nz/dillon-scholarship or phoning BayTrust on 0800 654 546.