Jabaree Culliver is going to state this year, but not to compete in a sport.
The freshman at the University of Nebraska at Omaha is a candidate for state Youth of the Year, the highest honor given to a member of the Midlands and Lancaster County Boys & Girls Clubs.
Culliver, 18, was named Youth of the Year for the Omaha metro area on Saturday, chosen from among six representatives of local chapters.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America sponsors the scholarship program that recognizes members who have overcome obstacles and odds, and who give back to the club and the community.
The Nebraska winner, who will be selected in March, will receive a $1,000 scholarship and will advance to regional competition and the chance to win $10,000.
Culliver, a member of the Westside chapter, said he was humbled to be selected.
“I didn't realize how much other people like me were facing hard problems in their life and overcoming them,” Culliver said. “I would have given my Youth of the Year to any of them because, honestly, everybody deserved it.”
Culliver said he was nervous at first as he delivered a prepared speech to a panel of judges, but he eventually relaxed as he talked about the hardest year of his life. When he was a junior at Creighton Prep — balancing schoolwork, sports and preparations for college — his mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer.
“I really just want to tell my story, because I feel like somebody else out there is going through the same thing as me and just needs somebody that they can relate to,” Culliver said.
His mother, Tracey Culliver, said she couldn't be more proud of Jabaree and his younger brother, Joshua.
Her cancer has been in remission for a year, she said, in large part because of the support of her family and the Boys Club. Her sons and her parents have been there at every step of her recovery, she said.
“It's just the beginning for Jabaree and Joshua,” she said. “We are truly blessed.”
Jabaree Culliver said the Westside club “saved his life” by providing positive support when he became depressed over his mother's cancer.
He joined the club at age 10 and now works as a teen specialist, mentoring younger members. It doesn't feel like work, he said.
Culliver is majoring in graphic design at UNO. His ideal job after graduation, he said, would be designing graphics for the Boys & Girls Club.