Sophia Gage has many physical challenges to overcome but she’s determined to help others struggling with mental illness once she graduates with a degree in psychology.

Gage, who has had to use a wheelchair from time to time since she was 12 due to a brittle bone condition, is one of seven Rotorua students awarded a Dillon Scholarship from BayTrust for 2019.

The scholarship is in its 28th year and supports Bay of Plenty students with significant disabilities while they undertake tertiary qualifications.

The fund recognises the additional efforts and costs involved for these students to pay for things like medical bills, learning aides, special equipment and transport.

This year’s Rotorua recipients will receive $13,000 between them – $3000 of which will go to Gage who is studying psychology and linguistics at the University of Auckland.

“I chose Auckland because the transport is a lot easier for wheelchair users. I take the bus to uni every day and the bus drivers are amazing.”

Gage hopes to one day open to a psychology clinic of her own.

“When I was growing up I noticed that a lot of people struggle mentally more than physically, and it’s the mental stuff you can’t see. Unless you talk to them, you can’t see what’s going on and you can’t help them.”

This is the third year Gage will receive a Dillon Scholarship which the 20 year-old uses to help pay for transport and school textbooks.

“I think it’s amazing. It gives everything a bit more of a boost and it gives me peace of mind knowing that I have a bit extra there to get me through the year.”

BayTrust Dillon Scholarship committee chairman Bill Cleghorn said 57 students across the wider Bay of Plenty would benefit this year, with $86,500 of scholarships being awarded.

“Some of these people are absolutely amazing. I don’t know how they do it. There is continuing demand for this scholarship even though the Government now offers free fees for the first year of tertiary study. There are always additional costs when you have special needs and the general cost of living keeps going up.”

Since its inception, $1.8 million of scholarships have been awarded to more than 500 students with significant disabilities.

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 a scholarship and receive up to $5000 per year for a maximum of four years.

There is no age restriction.

Source: Rotorua Daily Post

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