Applications for BayTrust’s $100,000 Dillon Scholarship fund will open this weekend and could potentially help dozens of Eastern Bay students with significant physical or intellectual disabilities who are undertaking tertiary study next year.

The unique annual scholarship fund has awarded a total of $1.93m among 530 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.

This year 13 Eastern Bay students were among 50 recipients across the wider Bay of Plenty who received financial help to pay for things like medical bills, learning aides, special equipment and transport. 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.

Whakatane’s Rebecca Branch is studying a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition at Otago University and has received a $1000 scholarship for the past two years. She is unable to hold down a part-time job as well as study due to a rare and debilitating migraine condition.

“I have to make sure I don’t over-work myself because stress triggers it,” she explains. “It’s like vertigo mixed with a migraine and I get unbelievably dizzy. I can barely stand up let alone look at a computer screen to study so I just have to sleep it off which can take several days.”

Rebecca’s Dillon Scholarship has helped pay for expensive textbooks and daily living costs so she can pursue her dream of becoming a qualified dietician. “It’s been a huge help. You don’t realise until you leave home just how expensive everything is.” The 20 year-old has always loved science and was determined not to let her migraines hold her back from tertiary study.

“I have always wanted to go to university and have a career. I plan to eventually complete a Masters of Dietetics and return to work in the Bay of Plenty.”

BayTrust CEO Alastair Rhodes is encouraging eligible Eastern Bay students to apply for a 2021 Dillon Scholarship if they need extra support. 

“Our first scholarships in 1990 awarded a total of $1800. We’re now approaching the $2m mark 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 beauty of this scholarship is there are no boundaries around it,” Rhodes 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.”

BayTrust 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 on Sunday 1 November and will close on 15 January for the 2021 academic yearBay of Plenty students who have a medically-recognised significant disability can apply on-line by visiting or phoning BayTrust on 0800 654 546.