Wauchope's Molly Styles and Port Macquarie's Tahli Enfield are some of the youngsters propelled forward in their studies by Hastings Education Fund grants for 2020.
The Charles Sturt University and University of Wollongong students each faced unique challenges on their own journeys to first year university this year.
The Hastings Education Fund provides financial assistance and support to local youth to help them achieve post high school education, training and vocation aspirations.
The fund fundraises throughout the year and accepts donations from local residents and businesses in order to provide financial grants to students.
Molly finished year 12 at Wauchope High School and began studying a Bachelor of Business Studies at Charles Sturt University this year.
"I was the first one from my family to go to university and I was always worried about the financial burden of that," she said.
"HEF has provided me with support financially and they always check up on you. They provide free broadband from Optus to help study during coronavirus.
"I didn't know what to expect of university. I want to have a career that I enjoy and a job that I enjoy everyday."
Tahlie finished year 12 at Hastings Secondary College Port Macquarie campus and began living on campus for her first year studying Bachelor of Law and Arts at the University of Wollongong.
"I think it provides a community that you can always come back to and someone you can turn to for extra help," she said.
"When living away obviously the financial burden increases and having that extra support from the community and business is really fantastic.
"I love my surf teaching but I really wanted to go to university because there are so many options there. It's going to open so many future opportunities for myself.
"It hasn't been the easiest year but it's still been an enjoyable year."