La Verne Magazine
"Education in La Verne"
Claws, Tails, Wings and Fun: A Look Behind the Mask of School Spirit
by Jeannette Gano
photography by Isela Peña
Arm in arm, two San Dimas High School students work to increase spirit.
While football player Daniel Perysian makes the plays on the field, April
Branam, disguised as the SDHS Saint, helps lead cheers and stunts along
Lions, tigers and bearcats, oh my! They hang from classroom ceilings;
they are on T-shirts, floor mats, and they bounce around at assemblies.
They are school mascots, and all of the schools in the Bonita Unified School
District have one. Eagles are at Allen Avenue Elementary School, road runners
at Grace Miller, raccoons at Roynon and owls at Oak Mesa.
The schools have costumed their mascots. At Oak Mesa, some children
are convinced that Joe, the custodian, is Ollie the Owl, who flaps around
at school assemblies. They approach the mascot and whisper, "Hi Joe."
But Ollie the Owl is not Joe; it is actually Joanne Taylor, PTA mother of
two students at the school. She has been donning the Ollie the Owl costume
for the past three years. Taylor says she has had her tail feathers pulled,
her stomach punched and has been tugged and hugged countless times. Those
students scared of the owl find it necessary to walk as far around her as
possible; others offer to bring Ollie roadkill for breakfast. Taylor listed
reasons why other mothers should dress as the owl: "To find out whether
your sweat glands are working properly, to get your picture in the yearbook
more than anyone else, to get to hold hands with Mr. Milligan (the school
principal) and because the children love him."
Allen the Eagle is the mascot at Allen Avenue Elementary School. School
Secretary Sandy Mc Farland says, "Whoever is brave enough to get into
the eagle costume is Allen." Teri Simonsen is one such mother. She
disguised herself as the eagle for the first grade "Teddy Bear"
picnic. Her daughter was among the first graders present, but she was unaware
that her mother was inside the costume. Simonsen says, "Most of the
children wanted to shake my hand, but there were one or two who just wanted
to kick me." Many of the children were curious and tried to figure
out who Allen really was, but when they asked questions, Simonsen remained
quiet and entertained the children. "It's not something I would want
to do everyday, but it's fun, and the children really enjoy it," she
Bonita High School Bearcats Ashley Evans and Marci Vinci wear the green
and white bearcat costumes at games and pep rallies. They use their energy
to stir up the crowd's spirit; "It gives me a chance to express myself;
it's definitely fun," says Evans.
The two were friends before becoming mascots, and Evans says their friendship
has only grown stronger since they began working together. As Vinci does
push-ups for every point scored, Evans counts them down to the crowd. Both
girls have been invited to audition as U.S.A. mascot instructors for cheer
camp. Their identity is no secret, and most people are very supportive of
From elementary school owls to high school bearcats, mascots entertain
and promote school spirit, and most everyone loves the lions, tigers and
bearcats ... oh my!
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