HOLLYWOOD — Juggling a full university-level course load and raising two children might sound challenging, but Jo Jo Osceola calls it a blessing.
“It’s not really a struggle because we are extremely blessed with the Seminole Tribe and the Education Department,” she said.
Osceola, of the Bird Clan, is in her junior year at the University of Miami, majoring in political science and double minoring in English and psychology. The 26-year-old has plans to attend law school and to work for the Tribe as general counsel.
“(I want) to preserve a better future for our people,” Osceola said.
Her aspirations could stem from the positive role models surrounding her. Osceola’s father, Joe Dan Osceola, attended Georgetown University on a scholarship for basketball and cross country. He went on to hold esteemed positions in the Tribe, such as Tribal ambassador and president, worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and founded the United South and Eastern Tribes alongside Betty Mae Jumper.
Her mother, Virginia Osceola, is a seamstress who has helped organize cultural gatherings like the Tribal Fair. She instilled the value of tradition in her children and passed her sewing skills on to Osceola, who won every contest she entered for Indian Day this year on both Big Cypress and Hollywood Reservations. She said in the days before the holiday, she spent her time “sewing and studying, sewing and studying.”
A role model herself, she was a guest speaker at the Higher Education College Fair on Oct. 4. She said she made a point to show participants how blessed they are to have access to the resources the Tribe provides through the Education Department.
“We can’t do it by ourselves but we don’t have to,” she said. “And if you don’t know what you want to do, that’s OK.”
Osceola might know exactly what she wants to do with her future, but she said she still relies on the support of the Tribe, the Education Department and her family for guidance.
Growing up in Hollywood, with a father from Brighton and a mother from Trail, Osceola’s parents strived to keep her grounded in her Seminole roots. She feels connected to all the reservations, including Big Cypress where her husband, Byron Billie, is from.
“Wherever we go is home,” she said.
Osceola’s accolades also include winning the coveted Miss Seminole Princess Pageant in 2000. Her crown, which hangs in her house, caught the eye of her 7-year-old daughter, Sarafina Billie, the current Little Miss Seminole. Osceola has committed to traveling with Sarafina to all her events while keeping up with her school work.
“I don’t miss class and she doesn’t miss class and we make it work,” Osceola said.
Just like her parents taught her, Osceola raises her children in the spirit of the Seminole tradition and strives to teach them positivity, she said.
Even with a heavy schedule, she finds time to indulge in things she loves – like playing basketball on the reservation and running half marathons – and she has high hopes for herself and for the future of the Tribe.
“When our people rose from poverty, that was a struggle. Everything we do now is a blessing. Everything we have now came at a price,” she said. “That’s what I teach my children.”