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A look at Okemos' student mascot committee

Okemos Public Schools
Posted at 7:29 PM, Dec 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-21 19:29:49-05

OKEMOS MICH. — The student mascot committee at Okemos High School is part of a big change for the school district. Each grade is represented by four students.

“One of the most amazing things about being in education is watching kids rise to the challenge when you give them a challenge," said Interim Assistant Principal Allison Cironi.

Each student has their own reason for being a part of the committee.

“I’m always looking for ways to bring people together and just to better the world around us and this change is really going to be good for a lot of people." said junior Bleona Prenaj.

For freshman Isabella, it's her heritage.

“I’m of Native American heritage and it’s a huge part of my family and a huge part of the community and I feel like it’s so important that we’re correctly representing people," Isabella said.

For sophomore Saneet, it's her school involvement.

“The one I love the most is probably the marching band and the mascot is used in our cheers and something called the series," she said.

But the one reason they all have in common: to create a perfect mascot.

The student mascot committee has been tasked with sorting through the community surveys, debating and working together and ruling out submissions.

“There was a lot of good input from a lot of people and it was very different and diverse we were able to come up with very good rationale, and you know, be able to like filter through all the responses pretty easily," Saneet said.

Some options didn't make the cut because they wouldn't age well.

“Like Okemos puppies, you know that kind of a thing where, you know, of course the lovely second graders were like, Oh my gosh, that'd be amazing," Isabella said. "But, you know, once they get to high school, it's not going to be quite as amazing.”

Others didn't fit the inclusivity vision the students set out to meet.

“I think lions was one of the ones on the list initially and there was talk about well, we don’t want to do that because the male and female lions look vastly different," said Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director Lara Slee. "So we’d have to make a choice in how we represent and we don’t want to favor one over the other.”

“We also had to think about how can we respect the past and respect our alumni while also moving forward?” Bleona said. “A way to respect our alumni was to keep our colors so they could still kind of have that sense of attachment with our mascot.”

The decision has been narrowed down to four choices which will be ranked by third through twelfth graders.

"Teachers had talking points and had some discussions with their students around what is a mascot and nickname and why is it important to our school and community," Slee said.

Those surveys will then be sorted through by the mascot committee.

“We’ll look at the data and then we’ll ask ourselves do we think that this is something that’s representative of the whole community," said freshman Olivia Tandoc.

Whatever the final decision may be, the students in the committee take pride in the work they've put in.

“Even though there may be a disconnect because it kind of just feels like a word for right now, as time progresses we can make traditions around it, we can make chants, football games, like we can use it and it will feel like Okemos," Saneet said.

Creating a change in the schools history.

“We see Native American mascots everywhere and it’s not okay and it’s important that we accept that," Isabella said. "As a whole it gives me so much hope to see that we made this change and things are getting better in this community.”

That will live on long after they graduate.

“It’s just about those next steps, and now that we’ve kind of solved the problems, we can just keep making this community a better place," Isabella said.

The ranked choice survey closes on Jan. 5. The student mascot committee will sort through the ranking and make a recommendation to the school board on Jan. 24.

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Mikayla Temple

Mikayla Temple

1:39 PM, Jan 05, 2021

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Mikayla Temple

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