Francene Thomas from Kaitaia was one of 20 university students who each received $6000 Freemasons' scholarships at a function at Parliament last week.

Ms Thomas is studying for a Bachelor of Social Sciences (Honours) degree at the University of Waikato, majoring in psychology, which she hopes to follow with a Master's degree in cognitive psychology.

Along with numerous university awards and significant on-campus involvement, she had completed more than 250 volunteer community service hours in Northland and the Waikato, including mentoring at-risk youth for the Blue Light holiday programme. She was a St John cadet for eight years.

He other passion is Thai boxing, in which she has won trophies. In 2014 she was Far North Thai Boxing's most consistent student, and a year later she was its most consistent, most dedicated and most outstanding female student.

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Last week's function also was the presentation of $80,000 in scholarships to eight postgraduate students, while four veterinary science students and one veterinary technology student from Massey University received $10,000 Lawson-Smith Freemasons Education Trust scholarships, taking the total awarded to the country's most talented university students over the last 40 years to $5.4 million.

This year's recipients were pursuing a range of careers — five research scientists, three in marketing and business, two ecologists, psychologists, dentists and teachers, one microbiologist, accountant, doctor, lawyer, nutritionist, security analyst, engineer, urban planner, counsellor, creative musician and mental health care worker.

Freemasons Grand Master Mark Winger had high praise for them.

"The kindness, compassion and zeal they have shown in their community and voluntary work, while consistently achieving A grades in their studies, is to be applauded," he said.

"Often their generosity of spirit is part of a family tradition. We send our warmest congratulations and best wishes for successful careers, applying their talents for the betterment of New Zealand."

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Benevolence and helping those in need is a cornerstone in Freemasonry, and every member is encouraged to become involved in charitable activities. The Freemasons Charity, which had its New Zealand origins in the late 19th century, has, through the generosity of its members, built up a fund exceeding $30 million.

The investment returns enable it to disburse funds in several ways. As well as university scholarships, it funds the relieving of need, Lodge community projects, medical research and fellowships.

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