We are passionate individuals helping native youth to rise above the challenges they face.
Jaci S. McCormack (Nez Perce)
Jaci McCormack, President and Founder
Jaci McCormack is an enrolled member of the Nez Perce Tribe. Jaci began her basketball career on the Nez Perce Reservation in Lapwai, ID and it was clear from an early age the tribe had a star among them. Jaci was a two time Idaho State Player of The Year, leading her team undefeated in her sophomore season. She was the first recipient of the NABI leadership award, which recognizes young native athletes achieving their dreams playing college basketball. At age 15 Jaci moved to Lake Oswego, Oregon to finish her high school career. The move was part of a hardship case where she was shunned by some of her friends in Lapwai during a fatal incident that occurred near the reservation. The adjustment to Lake Oswego was anything but easy; Jaci struggled socially and academically but felt a sense of peace when she stepped on the hardwood. Like school, basketball was also a challenging transition, learning hard work and discipline both on and off the court. The transition, culture shock and high academic standards at her new school gave Jaci the confidence that she can overcome and ‘rise above’ anything she puts her mind to.
She led her team in all statistical categories while also leading her team to the Oregon State play-offs. Her senior year she was named to the Northwest Shootout Game, Team Oregon (Oregon vs Washington) and also named a USA Today All American Honorable Mention. After being heavily recruited by many Division 1 schools, Jaci chose Illinois State University where she received full scholarship for Division 1 Women’s basketball where she would eventually lead her team to the NCAA tournament. Jaci say’s she couldn’t have ended her career any better. She led her team from eighth place in the Valley tournament to the championship. She made a game-winning turnaround jump shot with 0.8 seconds left to give the No. 8-seed Redbirds the tournament title with a 72-70 win over Indiana State. The shot was highlighted nationally throughout that weekend as a "Play of the Day" and "Best Plays of Championship Week" by ESPN. She was named the Most Valuable Player of the MVC Tournament and earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
To this day, Jaci is the only Nez Perce tribal member to play in the NCAA tournament. Jaci still plays in the Indian Basketball circuit when her schedule allows and is regarded as one of the top five female native basketball players of all-time.
After earning her Bachelor of Science Degree in Sociology, Jaci returned home to the Nez Perce reservation and served as the Program Coordinator for the diabetes program at the tribal health clinic. She then moved back to Portland and served as a project specialist at the Northwest Portland Indian Health Board. She started her graduate degree at Portland State University and plans to finish her degree over the next three years. After five years at NPAIHB, she returned to the Nez Perce Tribe to serve as the Youth Prevention Director and successfully developed this program to reach more kids on the reservation. Most recently she served as the Deputy Executive Director for the Nez Perce Tribe before moving to Seattle, WA.
As the Nez Perce Tribal Youth Prevention Director, Jaci rediscovered her passion of working with youth and began volunteering her time outside of the work setting at various basketball camps and other youth activities. She recognized all too well the challenges tribal youth face in making a transition off the reservation to post-secondary education, and wanted to give back. She began using her own experiences in this effort. Jaci has a heart for creating opportunity and empowerment for kids all across the country. Her passion for developing healthy behaviors and opportunity for kids in Indian Country is unmatched.