Eight Rotorua students who need extra financial help to complete tertiary study will receive $13,000 between them this year from BayTrust's Dillon Scholarship fund, including a 19-year-old aiming to be New Zealand's next opera star.

Dillon Scholarships are designed to support local students with significant disabilities to undertake tertiary qualifications. The fund recognises the additional efforts and costs involved for these students to pay for things such as learning aides, special equipment and transport.

Ellis Carrington is about to begin her second year at Victoria University where she's studying a Bachelor of Music majoring in classical voice performance. The talented singer, who grew up in Westbrook and attended John Paul College, suffers from an unknown condition which severely affects her muscles and joints.

"When it flares up my body just shuts down," she said.

"I normally get infections and I get very sick. The Dillon Scholarship is awesome because it will help fund my medication and doctor's bills so I don't have to worry about that while I'm studying."

Carrington's condition first appeared when she was 11 but she's determined not to let it stop her pursuing her dreams.

"You can't sit around and let it get to you. I love university and when I graduate I want to do post-grad study overseas and become a professional opera singer."

Other recipients included Sophia Gage, Danielle Neeson-Morgan, David O'Connor, Phillip Rolleston, Te Manaia Jennings and Mikey (Freedom) Ratahi.

Their efforts were today celebrated at a special morning tea held by BayTrust in Rotorua.

Chairman of the BayTrust Dillon Scholarship committee, Bill Cleghorn, said 46 students across the wider Bay of Plenty would benefit this year, with just under $89,000 worth of scholarships awarded.

"Application numbers are similar to previous years which shows there's a continuing need," said Cleghorn.

"It's just mind-boggling what some people have to struggle with – and do so successfully in life. It's very inspiring. I don't know how some of them do it."

Cleghorn said the Government's free first year of tertiary education policy has eased the financial burden on students significantly.

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"But these particular applicants have extra financial needs like transport and aides to help them write notes and assignments which the average student wouldn't have to face."

The Dillon Scholarship programme was set up in 1990 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 chairman of the Trust Bank Bay of Plenty board and former mayor of Tauranga.

Since inception, $1.8 million worth of scholarships have been awarded to more than 500 students.

Applications for the Dillon Scholarship open each year on October 1 for the following academic year. Bay of Plenty students who have a medically-recognised significant disability can apply for up to $5000 per year for a maximum of four years. There is no age restriction.