Utah Jazz award first 30 high school students with life-changing college scholarships — and a surprise phone call

For Donovan Mitchell, it came when the commissioner announced his name on draft night. For Joe Ingles, it came when he found out he was moving to Salt Lake City. Every player knows how it feels to receive a life-changing call.

This time the players on the Utah Jazz got the chance to do the calling, personally delivering transformational good news to the first 30 recipients of the Utah Jazz Scholarship.

“I had to call and let you know,” Mitchell told one stunned student. “I wanted to be the first to congratulate you.”

“I’m proud of you. I’m rooting for you,” point guard Mike Conley said to another deserving student.

For each win this season, the Jazz have pledged to fund a full four-year scholarship for a Utah high school student from an underrepresented group. The first 30 recipients — one for each preseason and regular season victory the team had before the All-Star break — will enroll as freshmen at one of six Utah universities in the fall of 2021.

There is a gap between the number of students from ethnically diverse groups in Utah high schools and the number of those students who go on to post-secondary education, according to the Utah System of Higher Education. The Utah Jazz scholarship program seeks to help close that gap, making the state a more equitable place for all.

Hundreds of students applied for the scholarship. The recipients were chosen by 10,000 Degrees, a nonprofit that has supported students from low-income backgrounds to and through college for over 40 years.

Of the first 30 Utah Jazz Scholarship recipients:

• 100 percent demonstrated financial need

• 90 percent will be first-generation college students

• 53 percent are women

• 47 percent are men

The scholarship awards will cover the full cost of attendance, including tuition, books, fees, and room and board. So there was shock, disbelief — and incredible joy as the Utah Jazz players spoke with the students.

“I’m glad you’re excited. You should be. You deserve it,” Ingles said.

The scholarship recipients have all been accepted by one of six Utah universities:

• Brigham Young University

• Southern Utah University

• University of Utah

• Utah State University

• Utah Valley University

• Weber State University

“The sky is the limit. Keep soaring. Keep being you and keep striving for greatness,” Jazz forward Georges Niang said while delivering the news.

The Jazz have now won 55 preseason and regular-season games to this point, with the NBA playoffs set to begin this weekend. The remaining scholarships, for wins from the All-Star break through the postseason, will be awarded for students enrolling in college for the 2022-23 school year. Applications will open at www.utahjazz.com/scholarships at a later date.