Rotorua's Shanayla Barrett hopes to one day return to help the community she calls home – but for now it's the support of the Rotorua Trust that's helping her.
Barrett was one of 20 students presented with a tertiary study award from the trust, which will see the school leavers who are about to start tertiary study receive funding of $2000 a year for the duration of a three or four-year degree.
The awards, presented at a function at the Blue Baths last night, recognised students for excelling academically or contributing to the community.
Trust chairman Stewart Edward said five of the awards were based on academic achievement, while 15 recognised leadership skills and involvement in school, cultural and wider community activities.
For Barrett, the funding is a big boost ahead of moving to Auckland to study a conjoint Bachelor of Arts/Law degree.
"It's an honour and it is very helpful. The accommodation costs are expensive and with my degree I can't really work part time so funding like this helps a lot."
Barrett said to be recognised alongside her peers was particularly special, as was the ongoing nature of the support which would help during her four years of study.
She hopes to put her degrees to use, giving back to the community and planning to return to Rotorua in time.
She has spent the past few years involved in community initiatives such as youth suicide prevention, homelessness, addressing poverty, as well as health and addiction services.
Edward said the awards were special because they recognised not only academic excellence but also contribution to the community.
Students receiving the awards came from a mix of Rotorua schools and are pursuing a range of different qualifications.
"A key role of the Rotorua Trust is a better Rotorua for all and the students recognised with the tertiary study awards have all played a significant role in doing this, giving back to the community in a myriad of ways.
"It is fantastic to be able to support those who have given to our community, by providing some financial assistance for their tertiary education."
Edward said he was confident the city would benefit from the funding with many past students returning to live and work in Rotorua.
"We wish the recipients the best of luck for their studies and can't wait to see where that leads them in the future."