OGDEN — Ben Lomond senior Elsy Villezcas got the surprise of a lifetime in July when she learned that she was the only grand prize winner in ACT’s national Scholarship Giveaway.

“At first, I thought it was kind of a joke,” Villezcas said. “You know, scammers call every time. And then when I got an email from the ACT, I was like ‘Oh this might be actually real,’ and I was super happy because I won the scholarship, and I really do have power to change my future.”

ACT presented Villezcas with a check for the $40,000 scholarship and a $5,000 technology prize Friday morning at a school assembly.

Villezcas says the scholarship won’t change her plans, but she’ll put the money toward what she already wanted to do — go to college.

She wants to attend either Utah State or Weber State and study history teaching or social work.

Villezcas was randomly selected from 600,000 students who took the ACT college entrance exam on the test dates in April, June and July 2019.

The Scholarship Giveaway is a new program ACT launched at the beginning of 2019, said Natalie Ivory, senior product manager with ACT.

“We knew that there were ... a lot of scholarship opportunities for ... that top tier of student who had a lot of opportunities open to them,” Ivory said. “And we ... wanted to do something that was more of an opportunity that anyone could have a chance for, and so we ... decided to do this ... scholarship sweepstakes.”

Earlier this year, three students won $5,000 scholarships and $5,000 technology prizes. Each winner was associated with an ACT test date in April, June or July.

Elsy was the grand prize winner drawn from the names of all the students who took the ACT on all three test dates. Students could also enter the contest by mail without signing up and paying for the ACT test, Ivory said.

ACT is expanding the program this year to give scholarships to 14 students, Ivory said. Winners will get $15,000 scholarships as well as $5,000 technology prizes — less than Villezcas got.

“She was kind of our big bang for kicking off this program,” Ivory said.

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