DAVIE — Before the new school year started, the Schimmel sisters provided inspiration to Seminole students during the Seminole Education Department’s Education Expo on Aug. 5 at Signature Grand in Davie. Known throughout Indian Country for their success on the basketball court, Shoni and Jude Schimmel shared how they rose to fame and have used their education to continue striving for goals, all while remaining humble and appreciative of their Native heritage.
“It’s an honor. I’m only 22, and I had no idea that I can say we’ve been on the same stage with President Obama,” Jude said. “We don’t take all of our blessings for granted.”
After Chairman James E. Billie spoke to attendees and urged them to stay away from drugs and pursue their education, the Schimmel sisters took the stage as the keynote speakers. Both sisters starred on the University of Louisville women’s basketball team before embarking on professional careers in the WNBA. Shoni plays for the New York Liberty; Jude played with the Dallas Wings in the spring.
“No matter what you dream, no dream is too big,” Jude said.
At 5-foot-5, Jude explained to the students that she is not the typical height that the WNBA looks for, but said that anything is possible if you set your mind to your goals and work hard enough to achieve them. She also encouraged the students to seek higher education.
“Whatever kind of college, just go out and get your education,” Jude said. “I’m not going to lie to you; there will be times that will be tough, but you must keep moving forward and stick it out.”
The Schimmel sisters are the second and third oldest kids of eight siblings in their family. Making the decision to leave their hometown in Oregon and go away to college was hard for them, especially because they grew up with a big family and in a Tribal setting. However, their decisions paved the way for them to achieve things they had never imagined possible.
Shoni mirrored her sister’s thoughts and told the audience to not take being Native American for granted. She focused on talking about how both she and Jude did not grow up privileged.
“Don’t settle. Just go out and find your motivation, “said Shoni, 24. “We’re beautiful people, and I’m thankful for being Native American.”
Students took photos with the sisters and had the opportunity to purchase autographed books of Jude’s autobiography “Dreamcatcher.”
Tribal members and other attendees lined up to buy the book that tells the story of Jude growing up on a reservation and what it was like for her to succeed in the world outside of reservation life.
The expo featured representatives from several colleges and universities, learning workshops and networking with educational advisors.
“There’s a lot of schools that I never even thought of looking into, not just for college but for my small daughter and three sons, and I didn’t even know they’re right down the street,” said Erica Frank-Bad Bear, 29, who attends Sheridan Technical Center in Hollywood for Computer Sciences.
Other presentations included help with credit scores and credit reports, college survival skills and resume writing.
“I think it’s a great event. Education is really important to the future of our youth, so this type of environment shows a lot of options,” said Joshua Arce, acting dean of Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas. “I’m proud to be the only tribal college here and know that Haskell has had a long history with the Tribe and its members.”
Arce wasn’t alone in being proud of Haskell’s legacy.
“Haskell is the hub for Indian Country. On average they have 150 tribes represented annually,” said Tribe Treasurer Peter Hahn, a Haskell alum. “Not only is it a great place to make connections and friends, but it’s also a great first step in education.”
Attendees who visited the Haskell booth were given information about how they could pursue their education and prepare for their futures by enrolling in the university whose enrollment is about 800 Native Americans per semester.
The expo was also filled with booths and representatives from several Seminole departments that provided information about their services.
“We have a lot of opportunities in our Tribe alone and they [Schimmel sisters] didn’t have much,” said Anissa Billie, 17, who attends Paul R. Wharton High School in Tampa. “It was really cool that they got to be on the stage with Obama; if they can do it, we can do it.”