Can you imagine just finishing up your senior year of high school and being told that you will be the first class ever to graduate with no mascot name? Students at Lancaster High School had to deal with this issue last year.
On March 16, 2015, the “Redskins” mascot and nickname, which had a 68-year legacy, was retired for being a racial slur to Native Americans.
“They (the Board of Education) had been having discussions with many leaders of Native Americans, with the possibility of looking at ramifications of the nickname at Lancaster,” said Cesar Marchiolli, the high school’s principal. “When other schools started to say they weren’t going to play, it got a little more serious.”
In spring of last year, three schools – Akron, Lake Shore and Niagara Wheatfield – boycotted the lacrosse games because they have many Native American athletes and students.
“That’s why the Board of Education felt they had to make a move immediately,” Marchiolli said.
“I didn’t like the idea of change at first, but I still have pride in my school and all of our teams just like before,” said Elyse Kuhn, a senior at Lancaster.
Right away, the students took it into their own hands to come up with a new mascot.
“It was completely student driven,” Marchiolli said.
Every student who wanted to participate in the process had the opportunity to submit ideas for a new mascot and even submit a vote using official ballots.
“By the end of the year, students started to embrace the idea that they had control over the new name,” Marchiolli said. “They felt special that they had a chance to choose and it created a feeling of empowerment. It was very positive and a great learning experience.”
The legacy of the Lancaster Redskins is not being forbidden, just retired. Students will never be told that they cannot wear their apparel, and some of the previous Redskins-related displays will still stand. For example, the student murals will remain and the new name will be incorporated as time goes on.
“The name is still prevalent in some parts of the building because it’s our history. You can’t erase 60 years of history,” Marchiolli said.
Meanwhile, there are many new and exciting things in store for Lancaster during the next few years.
“It’s pretty cool. It’s time for a change,” said junior Jordan Clemons.
There has been talk of a mural including the Legends, Redskins and Maroons logos (“Maroons” was the mascot for Lancaster that was retired in 1948), hoping to bring pride to every former Lancaster student no matter where they stand on the issue.
“The students are doing some neat things trying to preserve some history as well as representing new things,” said Monica Diaglor, one of the school’s assistant principals.
Students are finding ways to adapt to the change.
Nate Greene, a sophomore, said, “ ’Skins on 3’ was the everyday thing. Now we just need to find our new chant.”
Janel Koeth, a freshman, said that the new mascot was never a big deal to her. Many freshmen agreed that the change wasn’t as significant to them compared to the seniors, and that as underclassmen reach the high school the issue will become less and less important.
There isn’t much change in the uniforms other than displaying “Lancaster Legends.” For the past few years, the school had been ordering uniforms without the old mascot’s name due to previous controversy on the matter.
Last fall was the first year the mascot didn’t appear at a football game. The gym that once had “Redskins” displayed on it now says “Legends,” and on the windows of the cafeteria there is a banner that brightly reads “Lancaster Legends” in the red and black school colors.
Members of Building Beautification, a group of students working toward change involving the new mascot, are still coming up with new ideas and projects that will be implemented in the future.
Many students say that the pride they feel does not come from being a Redskin or a Legend, but from being a part of Lancaster.
Leugim Castillo, a junior varsity baseball and football player, said, “The pride I had being a Redskin will never go away … When I step on the playing field I think of myself as a Lancaster athlete at the end of the day.”
“The whole situation brought us together and even though it was a hard time, we got through it,” said Lucas Prince, a sophomore.
In the end it isn’t about the mascot that’s on the back of your jersey during your four years of high school but the friends and memories you make along the way.
“Lancaster has so much more to be proud of than just a mascot,” said Emily Laurienzo, a sophomore member of the varsity swim team.
Peyton McConville is a junior at Lancaster High School.