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Former ISU Basketball Star Helps Native American Youth 'Rise Above'

 Jaci McCormack with Reggie Redbird
Illinois State University
After Redbird basketball great Jaci McCormack left Illinois State University, she co-founded a Native American youth outreach group focused on empowerment through sports and education.

A former Illinois State University basketball star is using her talents to empower Native American youth.

Jaci McCormack is best known in the Twin Cities for her game-winning shot that clinched the Redbirds’ bid to the NCAA tournament in 2005. Today, she said her focus is giving back through her organization, Rise Above.

“I knew that I was paving a way for kids when I stepped foot on Illinois State’s campus, and I always told myself that I would give back in whatever capacity I could,” McCormack said. “So I teamed up with a pretty amazing business partner and figured out how to combine sports with prevention and education.”

McCormack said she struggled in her youth, trying to fit in as a young teen who grew up on a reservation and was transplanted into a primarily white community.

She said Rise Above works directly with tribal communities to teach native youth about healthy relationships, drug and alcohol prevention, and more.

“It’s about empowerment, education, and resiliency, and how those things can get you to your next level,” she said.

A film called “Rise Above,” based on the organization and McCormack’s life, is scheduled to be released in 2021.

WGLT's full interview.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.