Moree's Paddy Montgomery has received a significant financial boost as he prepares to head off to university to study aviation.
The Moree Secondary College 2018 HSC graduate is the 39th recipient from the Gwydir Valley to be awarded the Auscott Education Programme Scholarship.
Worth $11,500 per year for the duration of recipients' studies, the scholarship will be a massive help for Paddy who is set to head to Griffith University in south east Queensland this weekend to study a Bachelor of Aviation.
Paddy was chosen from seven applicants, following an interview process in September with a panel of representatives from Auscott Limited, and said he was thrilled to find out he had won it earlier this year.
"[The Auscott scholarship] is very prestigious around here," he said.
"It's a fantastic opportunity, allowing me to enter into a course that, without a scholarship, I would have struggled to finance.
"It's allowing me to do what I want to do."
Paddy has always wanted to be a pilot, and the accelerated two-year degree with Griffith University is the first step to achieving his dream of flying for a profession.
"The aim, after everything, would be to come out with an air transport pilot licence," he said.
He already has a recreational pilot licence, following 18 months of training under the guidance of Moree Aero Club's chief flying instructor Fred Nolan.
With that licence he is limited to what aircraft he can fly, however it does give him a significant advantage when it comes time for him to complete his practical training.
At the end of his two-year degree, which is theory-based, Paddy can either go on to do a Diploma of Flight Management for his practical flight training, or undertake a cadetship with an airline.
"All airlines do cadetships, so they take you and train you and you end up with a job at the end - that'd be ideal," he said.
The Auscott scholarship is available to students who reside in the Gwydir Valley and attend the local high school - Moree Secondary College.
"The idea of the scholarship is giving people like Patrick, who are regionally disadvantaged and have to travel to go to university, assistance to further their studies," Auscott Limited Gwydir Valley grower services representative Ben Jackman said.
"Full credit to Pat, he's obviously worked very hard and is very deserving."
The criteria used by the selection committee for awarding the scholarship include realistic ambition, need, the ability to succeed in a chosen course, motivation, academic performance, personal presentation, community involvement and maturity.
"It's not just based on academics," Mr Jackman said.
"It's also about community involvement and Patrick is involved in AFL, cricket, the Aero Club, he was school captain..."
Paddy joins other Auscott scholarship winners for the 2019 scholastic year from the Namoi, Macquarie and Murrumbidgee Valleys, which takes the total number of scholarships that Auscott has offered across all valleys to 153 since its inception 1971.
The annual Auscott investment in the scholarship program currently runs at approximately $172,500. The scholarship helps students meet the costs of post-graduate study such as accommodation, books and other living expenses.
Paddy would like to thank Auscott and the Boswell family for offering the scholarship, as well as Mr Jackman who was "really helpful throughout the process".
"It's amazing they give away this much money to support people in our community to go away to uni," he said.
He also thanked his parents, Mike and Janelle Montgomery, for supporting him through his schooling and providing him with the opportunities he's had "to get to this point".