Tasmania’s Year 12 completion rates have historically been some of the lowest in the country, as has the percentage of our population achieving a tertiary education, but a University of Tasmania scholarship program has been working to address this gap – helping young people most at risk of leaving Tasmania’s education system.

Since 2002, the Springboard to Higher Education Bursary Program, funded entirely by donations from University staff, alumni and the wider community, has helped nearly 900 Tasmanians complete years 11 and 12 and go on to achieve a university education.

The program, which awards financial support scholarships to students through years 10 to 12, and for the duration of their university degree, is now the focus of the University’s 2018 Annual Appeal.

Living in a regional or remote area, financial hardship, costs of living expenses, a lack of value on education within the family and even a lack of self-belief can keep Tasmanians from achieving their potential.

For Levi Dance, 20, of Devonport, there were times when even the thought of going to university seemed unlikely.

At the start of year 11, I was juggling working four days a week at a pizza place with my studies, and the balance was incredibly stressful. The thought of going to university was daunting – as I knew moving away from home would be financially even harder.

“I love to do things with 100 per cent effort, and I didn’t want to go to uni and be in a situation where I couldn’t be putting 100 per cent into my studies because I’d have to been working long hours to make ends meet. There were times when I thought, will I ever make it there?”

Receiving a Springboard to Higher Education bursary during year 11 as he studied at Don College was a life-changing moment for Levi, providing him with the financial support he needed to focus on his studies and cover textbooks, bus fare and a graphics calculator for his pre-tertiary maths and science classes.

The scholarship continues to support him as he studies a Bachelor of Engineering at the University’s Sandy Bay campus, becoming the first in his family to study at university.

The relief from financial pressure means that he’s also been able to continue regular volunteering at his local church, where he's involved in putting on community BBQs, working with youth, photography and playing in the church band.

“The workload with engineering is high, and outside of engineering I’m very passionate about being involved in my local church – I love to see the impact that volunteering has on people.

The financial support that this scholarship has provided has really helped me dedicate my time to studying and volunteering.

Now half way through his degree, the future is full of possibilities for Levi.

I am leaving the next semester open to see if mechatronics is something that I am passionate about – and if it is, I will aim to become a mechatronic engineer in the Air Force.

 To support the University of Tasmania's Annual Appeal, please visit: http://bit.ly/UTAS_AnnualAppeal2018

Interested in studying Engineering? Find out more here.