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Josie Kohn opening her acceptance letter on stage with Dr. Jennifer Jones and Pistol Pete. (Photos by Robert Posar)

The Heart of a Cowboy: Kohn's surprise acceptance to OSU's Opportunity Orange Scholars

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Media Contact: Christy Lang | Manager, Marketing & Communications | 405-744-9740 |

Being a Cowboy isn’t in our clothes, it’s in our character.

This is the final phrase of the Cowboy Code, uniting Oklahoma State University students and alumni everywhere.

Josie Kohn embodies the spirit of the Cowboy Code, so surprising her in a big way with her acceptance to OSU’s Opportunity Orange Scholars program made perfect sense.

From an early age, Kohn refused to let Down syndrome define her or limit her aspirations according to her sister, Rylee Cole.

“When she was little, it seemed like most people put limits on her and focused on what they thought she couldn't do,” Cole said. “But at every turn, she proved them wrong.”

Kohn set her sights on attending OSU at a young age.

“Josie told me at 9 years of age that she was going to OSU like her sister and Dad,” said Robin Kohn, Josie’s mother. “We just smiled and told her that would be so fun, never dreaming it would happen.

As Josie progressed through high school, her parents learned about the Opportunity Orange Scholars program, suggesting she could attend OSU through that pathway.

From then on, Josie’s dream of becoming a Cowboy never wavered.

 “She was invited to apply to OU's secondary education program, but refused because she was going to OSU, just like her sister, dad, aunts and uncles,” Cole said. “Not getting into Opportunity Orange Scholars was never an option in her mind.”

When the time came to tell Josie the news of her acceptance, Cole wanted to do so in a big way.

Josie would soon be participating in the Down Syndrome Association of Central Oklahoma Fashion Show, a fundraising event highlighting the unique and beautiful personalities of individuals with Down syndrome.

Cole, who is the Program Coordinator at DSACO, arranged for Dr. Jennifer Jones, director of OSU’s Center for Developmental Disabilities, and Pistol Pete to present Josie with her acceptance letter and officially welcome her to the Cowboy family during her moment in the spotlight.

This special surprise moment brought a huge smile to Josie’s face, as cheers erupted from the crowd, many of whom were throwing up pistols firing in celebration.

“Mike and I had no idea that OSU was coming to hand deliver Josie's acceptance letter to OOS at the fashion show,” Kohn said. “We knew she had been accepted, but hadn't told her simply because we wanted her to have that special moment of opening an acceptance letter for herself. Having it hand delivered by Pistol Pete and Dr. Jones was so much more than we ever expected.”

Emotions were high for everyone watching.

“Mike was jumping for joy and hollering; I was shocked and speechless. Josie was overjoyed,” she said. 

What others may see as stubbornness, Josie’s family sees as the grit and determination making her a true Cowboy at heart.

Just as the Cowboy Code says, Josie dreams “as big as the sky, ending each day knowing she gave it everything she had.” Whether it is her academics or putting on a memorable performance during a fashion show, Josie continues to rely on her determination to push her to new heights.

Dr. Jones said she is excited about the incoming class of OOS, including what Josie will contribute to during her time here.

“The Cowboy family is a vibrant and inclusive culture — and Josie represents everything we look for in a Cowboy,” Jones said. “We are excited to welcome her to campus in August and look forward to seeing how Opportunity Orange Scholars can support her academic and career goals and turn her interests and drive into knowledge, passions, skills and talent that will take her as far as her dreams can go."

Story By: Jillian Walker |

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