By Yadira Betances
---- — LAWRENCE — Urales Vargas is a pretty big deal in the music industry.
Vargas, also known as DJ Buddha, who grew up in Lawrence, is a disc jockey, record producer and song writer mostly for rappers.
Despite his success, Vargas, 32, has not forgotten his roots.
Vargas founded BEYOND Scholarship, an organization which recently gave scholarships to six students at Notre Dame Cristo Rey High School. BEYOND is an acronym for “Believers in Enlightening Youth Onto New Destinations.”
Vargas donated $10,000 to start the scholarship. The first six students to receive the $1,000 scholarships at a ceremony at the school were Nick Furnari, Eli Azzi, Chris Azzi, Justin Benitez, Jonathan Benitez and Emilio Joubert.
The school is hosting a night of musical entertainment tomorrow night at the Wyndham Hotel in Andover to add to the scholarship fund.
In a telephone interview, Vargas said he started the fund as a way to give back to Lawrence.
“I just hate when you ask someone, ‘Who are you helping’ and they don’t know. When I saw the kids and their parents, it meant so much to me because I know what they are going through,” Vargas said.
Vargas got the music bug from his father, Tirso, a musician and radio deejay on Spanish radio stations in Lowell and later on WNNW in Methuen. The younger Vargas started spinning records at the station with his dad and Vargas received his broadcast license from WNNW. Vargas became a DJ at local clubs as well the Methuen radio station and Jamn 94.5 in Boston.
But life wasn’t always easy. During his sophomore year at Central Catholic High School, he moved in with his dad and had to work to pay for school, which left him little time to study. He was a point guard on the Central’s basketball team, but flunked out of the team when his grades dropped.
“It humbled me to be that way, but I kept my chin up,” Vargas said. “In Lawrence I may not have been the best deejay or the best ball player, but I was good at what I did. Being from Lawrence made me what I am today.”
He also appreciates staff members at the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club, which he joined in the sixth grade.
Evan Silverio, president of the scholarship committee at Notre Dame Cristo Rey High School and Vargas’ classmate at Central Catholic, said he never doubted Vargas would be successful in the music industry.
Hope Moore at Notre Dame Cristo Rey said it is good for students to experience a connection with local young professionals.
“It shows that they are not just graduating from high school and going on to college, but they’re giving back and it is good for them to see that in action,” Moore said. “They are helping students achieve the dreams they thought could not be possible.”
During his career in the music industry, Vargas worked with different genres including reggae, reggeton, Latin, merengue and hip hop and collaborated on the 25th anniversary edition of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” album.
“The highlight of my career was working on the Michael Jackson album, because he was the greatest entertainer of all time. My name is on the cover, you don’t have to look for it with a magnifying glass on the credits. That’s a highlight in itself. Not everyone can say that ever, especially now that he’s dead.”
The BEYOND scholarship is administered by the Essex County Community Foundation.
In addition to Silverio, who works as an investor, other members are Walkiria Manzueta, a real estate agent, Vice President; Margot Zafra, a certified public accountant, Treasurer; David Pardo, an occupational therapist; Evelyn Martinez and Erica Moreira, all members of the subcommittee.
“All of us had the idea that if we got to a certain level, we’d give back,” Silverio said.
Silverio said the scholarship committee decided to partner with Notre Dame Cristo Rey because their tuition is lower than other private high schools.
Tuition at Notre Dame Cristo Rey is $10,000, out of which they pay $6,500 from their corporate work-study program, Hope Moore said.
Families are responsible for $2,700, but 90 percent get financial aid.
In addition to the scholarships, the fund will also provide guidance and mentoring to help local students.
If you go:
What: A night of musical entertainment with special guests
When: Nov. 17, 6-9:30 p.m.
Where: Wyndham Hotel, 123 Old River Road, Andover
Cost: $60 to benefit the BEYOND Scholarship Foundation which will help students at Notre Dame Cristo Rey High School. Contact: call Evan Silverio, president at 978-390-3320; log on to www.beyondscholarship.org or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.