For George Martinez, the thought of attending BYU was something of a dream. Martinez's parents, who immigrated to Utah from Mexico, never had the opportunity to attend college.
Fears of inadequacy filled his mind throughout the application process. "I expected to be rejected," Martinez admitted.
But that made opening his acceptance email at a Skyridge High School basketball game even sweeter.
"It was a burst of excitement at that moment and it was especially motivating to see that my parents were happy and proud," explained Martinez. "Because I'm a first-generation college student and my parents didn't have the opportunities I'll have."
Martinez decided to start applying for scholarships during his senior year of high school, and that's when he encountered the Utah Jazz Scholarship. "I saw a post on social media," he said. "They were offering scholarships according to each win they'd get in the season."
The Utah Jazz scholarship application required students to fill out a FAFSA form, obtain letters of recommendation and create a one-minute video about their educational goals.
After being accepted to BYU, Martinez received more exciting news: He'd been chosen to receive one of the full-ride scholarships. Georges Niang, a previous forward for the Utah Jazz, delivered the news via a FaceTime video call and congratulated him on the accomplishment.
"I ended the call and my mom was there and started crying, which was really heartwarming," he remembered.
Receiving the scholarship helped ease the pressure of paying for a college education. "I knew that I was going to have to work during the semester. Now I can focus on my education," said Martinez.
Having financial support for tuition, housing, meals, and other needs was reassuring, but Martinez still felt worried about fitting in. With only one friend attending BYU, Martinez would be surrounded by thousands of students he wouldn't know. And the academic rigors of a BYU education often felt intimidating.
Nevertheless, Martinez set aside his fears and held fast to his childhood dreams.
His nerves were settled at BYU New Student Orientation. "Seeing how welcoming people on campus are and learning about all the resources made me feel like I could belong here," Martinez said.
Meeting his peer mentor was especially impactful. "He approached me with energy, welcomed me to BYU, and explained how he was here to help me," recounted Martinez.
Martinez is grateful to have received this financial support from the Utah Jazz, as it will help him participate more deeply in his prerequisites for computer engineering and continue to develop the BYU aim of lifelong learning.
"I always like learning new things," said Martinez, "and being engaged and trying my hardest to understand a topic will be much more doable with this scholarship."
Martinez hopes that his time at BYU will provide him with relevant skills to add to his "toolbox of experiences."
From his parents' experiences, Martinez recognizes that immigration and its accompanying challenges can make applying for and attending a university difficult. But he feels encouraged by this scholarship and his enrollment at BYU and hopes that he can be an example for other students.
"It's really cool to be someone that's Hispanic and able to accomplish this," he explained. "I hope people can look at me and think 'I can do that, too.'"