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Taylorsville Journal

Iraqi immigrant earns $550 scholarship from Taylorsville Exchange Club

Apr 23, 2020 03:49PM ● By Carl Fauver

Taylorsville High School Counselor Claire Dukatz, Amed Jabbar, his Exchange Club A.C.E scholarship-winning son Mohammed, THS Principal Emily Liddell and Mayor Kristie Overson (L-R). (Taylorsville City)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

Amed Jabbar is lucky to be alive.

It’s not often you hear about someone completely recovering from a broken neck, but his son, Taylorsville High School senior Mohammed Jabbar, said that’s what happened after his father broke his neck when he dove into a swimming pool, not knowing it was only 4 feet deep, while teaching his mother how to swim.

“It happened in January 2019, and they raced my dad to the hospital,” Mohammed said. “I was not there when it happened. My sister told me, and I didn’t believe it. The doctors were surprised he did not die. Instead, he was able to return to work after three or four months. The doctors called it ‘incredible’ and ‘unbelievable.’ We were all so happy.”

All of that is the good news. The bad news is, while Amed was laid up, Mohammed, then a high school junior, had to essentially drop out of school to help financially support his parents and a younger brother and sister.

Jabbar’s hard work to support his family — and then scramble to make up his missed school work — prompted the Taylorsville Exchange Club to present him with the organization’s prestigious Accepting the Challenge of Excellence Award and the $550 scholarship that goes along with it. Club member Fred Jepsen coordinated the award selection.

“Our board selects scholarship winners based on nominations from school counselors,” Jepsen said. “We want a student who — for physical, social or other reasons — has had to overcome challenges. Mohammed had to basically drop out of school to become his family’s breadwinner. We considered that to be a challenge most kids would not overcome.”

Taylorsville High School counselor Claire Dukatz nominated Jabbar.

“I believe he is a great candidate because of the numerous hurdles he has overcome,” Dukatz wrote. “I have been incredibly impressed by his determination. He has been working all year to make up for his missing credits. One thing that stands out about Mohammed is his positive personality and perspective on life. He is also very polite and respectful. He has big dreams of helping people in his community. I have no doubt he will be successful in college.”

Jabbar received his recognition and $550 scholarship check at an early morning Exchange Club meeting at city hall. Among the attendees were Jepsen, Dukatz, Taylorsville High Principal Emily Liddell, Mohammed’s father and Mayor Kristie Overson.

 “I was so impressed with Mohammed and his story; the Exchange Club made the right choice,” Overson said. “He went from thinking he would have to drop out to earning this scholarship. I hope other kids learn from this. Even if you get behind [in your schoolwork], there are options and people who will help you succeed.”

After his father’s life-threatening injury, Mohammed found a job at the Salt Lake City International Airport.

“I worked at the airport pushing people in wheelchairs,” he said. “I earned $9 per hours, plus tips, which were usually pretty good. I was working from 3 p.m., sometimes until 2 a.m. It was five days a week, sometimes six. I tried for a while to get up and go to school, but I could not keep up.”

Mohammed is now on schedule to graduate with his Taylorsville High School classmates. The school’s graduation date is Friday, May 22. However, because of the coronavirus outbreak, it is not yet clear whether a graduation ceremony will be held.

“I want to attend [Salt Lake Community College] for my first two years, then go to the University of Utah to study Engineering,” Mohammed said. “I just love math, and I think I am good at it. It would also be good money. I am ready for it.”

Jepsen is thrilled to see Jabbar honored. But he is also hopeful an individual or business might step forward in the future, financially, to help restore the A.C.E award scholarship to what it once was.

“For years and years this award was sponsored,” he said. “Two years ago, the A.C.E winner received a $3,000 scholarship. We hope to be able to do that again in the future.”

Any business or individual who would like to sweeten the pot for the Taylorsville Exchange Club A.C.E. Award can contact Jepsen for more information at 801-712-8708 or [email protected].

A handful of Exchange Clubs populate the Salt Lake Valley. The Taylorsville chapter also distributes American flags during the Taylorsville Dayzz parade, installs the annual pinwheel garden at city hall to support child abuse prevention and assists the local food bank and the Children’s Justice Center.

Additionally, if you have ever seen a “Freedom Shrine” in a public school, that was also the work of the Exchange Club. As explained on the organization’s website (, the shrine is “an impressive display of a collection of historic document replicas that serves to remind all of us of the great efforts that have been taken to ensure our freedom.”

Mohammed said he and his family immigrated from the Middle East to the Salt Lake Valley about five years ago to enjoy those freedoms.

“I plan to live here my whole life,” he said. “It is safer here and there are more opportunities. I never want to live in Iraq again.”
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