Last spring, high school student Ben Lopez got a call from an unknown number.
The voice on the other end of the line belonged to Thurl Bailey, beloved former Utah Jazz player and current broadcast analyst for the team. He congratulated Lopez for being selected by the professional basketball team as a recipient of the Utah Jazz scholarship program, a new initiative that awards full-ride scholarships for incoming college students of underrepresented groups.
“He had a really deep voice,” Lopez said. “I knew the call could come that day and I was kind of nervous. After he told me the scholarship was mine and we got off the phone, I went to my mom to tell her. She was even more excited than I was.”
It was extra special to share that moment with his mom.
“My mom is one of my best friends,” he said. “We’re pretty close, and her encouragement helps a lot.”
Having lived most of his life in Provo, Lopez says he often envisioned studying at BYU and being part of the campus community. After finding a passion for dance at age 13, one of his dreams included joining BYU’s Living Legends, an award-winning song and dance group that celebrates the native cultural heritage of North and South America and the South Pacific through music, costume and dance.
It’s a dream that Lopez now gets to live daily. As one of the newest members of Living Legends, he’s now devoting up to 10 hours a week preparing for regular performances.
“Being a part of the Living Legends group has been my dream for several years,” Lopez explained. “It’s a pretty cool chance to show people what I like to do while opening people’s eyes to the different cultures around the world.”
Lopez will be the first college graduate in the United States among his immediate family. He credits his parents who have instilled in him the desire to work hard. They immigrated to the United States not long before Lopez was born, looking for more opportunities.
This year, Lopez says he’s enjoying the BYU experience and dutifully completing general education classes. While he isn’t sure what he’ll major in, he’s currently exploring the idea of studying archaeology; stemming from an interest he’s had in paleontology since childhood. Going back as far as he can remember, he has taken a big interest in dinosaurs.
“I was really into Indiana Jones and wanted to know every random dinosaur name,” he said. “I think that lifelong curiosity has led me to look into archeology today.”
Lopez says he’s grateful for the opportunity to focus on his studies at BYU.
“Moving forward, I’m most appreciative of being able to stay focused. Having the scholarship will help me focus more on school than anything else.”