HOLLYWOOD — Some grandmotherly advice has taken Tous Jumper Young Sr. on an academic path few grandsons – or anyone – can match.
The late Betty Mae Jumper’s emphasis on education when Tous was a youngster and into adulthood is paying off. At age 43, he’s found his education niche, and it’s laced with ivy.
A few years ago Jumper attended Harvard University for a year as a visiting student. Last year he completed a six-month program from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. This summer, he’s been accepted to attend Yale University as a visiting student as he pursues a business degree.
“Now I can say I’ve gone to Harvard, I’ve gone to Yale and I’ve attended Wharton business school. No one can take that away from me,” Jumper Young said. “I think if my grandma was here she’d be very proud because that’s what she always pushed on us, go to school, go to school, go to school.”
Jumper Young said his grandmother, who was the first and only woman to serve as chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, always encouraged him to get as much education as possible and then come back and help the Tribe.
“The education is a tremendous opportunity and [to] come back to the Tribe and help in whatever capacity you can whether it’s in office or a business capacity or teaching,” Jumper Young said.
Jumper Young’s mother, Scarlett Jumper, is a big fan of her son and his academic pursuits at some of the world’s most renowned institutions.
“I’m very proud of him continuing on and pressing on with his education and with the goals he has set. I’ve been blessed with him with his drive for education,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what age you are to pursue whatever your dreams are, where you want to go. [Tribal members] have such opportunities to do this now whereas 50, 60 years ago it wasn’t there.”
Jumper Young’s academic concentration centers on business. He’s learning from the best. Harvard, Yale and Wharton are consistently among the upper echelon in best business school rankings. He said he’s been working on five business plans related to some of Florida’s biggest economic drivers: agriculture, travel, tourism, insurance and financial institutions.
Jumper believes those from the Tribe whose education focuses on business and economics can better serve the Tribe in dealings with vendors or business compared to outside sources.
“Those with the education and tooling can say ‘hey, this is good for you or this is not going to be good for you,’ ‘this is good for our people or this is not good for our people’ instead of having outsiders say this is good for you but really it’s not … because they’re not really looking out for the people per se … It’s good to have our own people with the agenda of our people to grow and become successful and profitable,” he said.
As a kid, about the only thing Jumper Young knew about Ivy League schools is that Seminoles couldn’t afford to attend them.
“I grew up in Hollywood in a double-wide [trailer home]. To step on the campus of Harvard was pretty amazing,” said Jumper Young, who attended Driftwood Elementary and Hollywood Christian School. He was a quarterback for Hollywood Christian and faced off against Westminster Christian’s quarterback Alex Rodriguez, who went on to become one of baseball’s biggest stars.
After high school, Jumper Young attended the University of Miami on an academic scholarship, but he didn’t graduate. He admitted that partying and drinking derailed his college career at that time, and his life.
“I was this poor Indian kid from the reservation and I went to the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, and I was overwhelmed. I stepped into something I wasn’t ready for. I went down that path. For 20 years, I struggled with alcohol and drug addiction and a lot of the bad stuff that comes from living on the streets.
“I’m going to Yale now, but I got a doctorate in hard knocks. I’ve seen stuff that I hope people never see in their life,” he said.
Addiction was a big reason why psychology was his initial choice of a major when he resumed his academic career.
“That’s why I wanted to go into psychology so I could come back and try to help people who are struggling with that now,” he said.
When he arrived at Harvard in 2015, his classes included neuroscience, memory recovery and abnormal psychology. He lived in Adams House on campus, a dormitory that has been the college residence of such notable figures as Franklin Roosevelt, Henry Kissinger, William Randolph Hearst, Robert Frost, Charles Schumer and John Lithgow. The school’s Widener Library was Jumper Young’s second home where he spent just about all his time when he wasn’t in classes.
“Four to five times a week I’d get kicked out of the library because it was closing time,” he said.
His academic focus has since shifted to business and economics. Last year he completed an entrepreneurship specialization certification program from Wharton. He said it was a six- month course that he finished in less than two weeks.
His summer courses at Yale will center on elective requirements that he will use toward earning a business degree. His course load is four classes and 16 credits with classes that include chemistry, logic and ethics. At the same time, he’s taking another four classes virtually through Miami-Dade College. He’s a participant in the Tribe’s higher education program.
“I’m really thankful they’ve supported me,” he said.
Jumper Young said he would like to use his business knowledge to pursue agriculture-related opportunites, such as opening a turkey farm. From there, he’d like to use profits and his past experience to help Native Americans who struggle with addictions.
“I have a dream of opening an all Native American rehab center that is free to Natives,” he said, pointing to the far greater poverty, alcohol and drug rates that Natives deal with compared to the rest of the population.
In addition to his academic life, Jumper Young has nine grown children and four grandchildren.
“I’m kind of an empty nester. I don’t have kids at home. I’m afforded the time where I can travel,” he said.
He hopes his educational journey – from Cambridge to New Haven and beyond – can serve as a model for younger Seminole students just as his grandmother Betty Mae did.
“Trying to be an encourager of the young people to go to school and not just live on their dividend, but to grow mentally and grow their intellect, and being tooled and equipped to not just live on the rez but to conduct business on the outside with outsiders and be that front,” he said.
When Harvard and Yale meet in sports, which they did last year in the Ivy League men’s basketball championship, Jumper Young said he’ll cheer for both teams.
“I’ll have to get a house-divided shirt. One side Harvard, one side Yale,” he said.