From the time she was a little girl, Korissa Gozdziak loved dabbling in arts and crafts.
The Lancaster eighth-grader has moved on from her days of molding Play-Doh into sculptures and creating steppingstones. These days, she creates colored pencil drawings.
And last week, Korissa became famous in Lancaster circles as the designer of the school district’s new student-approved mascot – the Lancaster Legends.
“It’s so bizarre because on the one hand, I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m the one who designed it and won,’ and on the other hand, ‘I can’t believe I won,’ ” Korissa said after her design beat out other proposals as the district switched mascots following months of controversy.
“I just think it’s so awesome because so many people have worked so hard to get this process to become a reality, and now these next generations and my graduating class will be the Legends. I just think it’s such a cool legacy to leave.”
The School Board plans to formally vote Monday to accept it. The district already rushed to have the new mascot copyrighted on the same afternoon that the vote results were announced. Two new Twitter accounts tied to the Legends were begun the next day.
When the student contest for a new mascot design was first announced this spring, eventually drawing more than 100 entries, Korissa was determined to submit one. The 14-year-old, with long brown hair and saucer-shaped brown eyes, got right to work.
At first, she didn’t know what she would come up with. She sent a text message to her girlfriend Anna in Montana and told her how the school was changing its mascot name and asked for her help. Korissa also talked with many school friends before settling on Legends.
“Between my friend Anna and my friends in school, everyone felt that Legends had a nice ring to it. It flowed well and was a nice representation” of the district, Korissa said.
The Legends theme features a knight’s suit of armor and sword in the district’s red and black colors, accented with gray. The inspirational statement accompanying the Legends logo speaks about the district being “legendary” and having amazing teachers and opportunities that shape students to become legends in their own right.
Surprising even herself, Korissa’s design ended up being the top pick in voting by 1,106 students.
In coming weeks – possibly even before the end of the school year – the district faces several other mascot-related tasks. Among them, the proper retiring of the Redskins mascot and the formal unveiling of the new Legends logo. Those two events were tentatively planned by students for June 15, but the administration has not announced any details and seemed late last week to be hedging on the date.
Other questions will undoubtedly come about what the district plans to do about new sports uniforms.
There’s also the issue of how and when to begin removing the multitude of Redskins references in district buildings, particularly on the high school campus, as well as beginning to incorporate the Legends mascot, once it goes through more tweaking with the graphic design company. The elaborate Redskins murals done by graduating classes that hang in the high school hallways will remain.
And will there be a “Legend” knight running around at football games, just as there once was someone dressed as a Lancaster Redskin? Korissa hasn’t heard of any plans for that, but said, “I think that would be kind of cool to have a knight at games.”
In the days after her design won the hearts of so many students, Korissa is somewhat dazed. “It’s still just so crazy that my name and my mascot are going to be Lancaster now,” she said. “It’s just really surreal.”
Korissa, not yet in high school but having designed the winning mascot, has found herself at the center of a pivotal moment in district history – all in the midst of lingering bitterness, mostly among adults and alumnae over the end of the Redskins mascot. No matter what side of the issue residents are on, hard feelings remain.
The issue took center stage in the recent School Board elections, resulting in the unseating of two incumbents who had voted to end the Redskins name.
“They’ve been thrust into adult issues ahead of schedule and rose to the occasion,” Board Vice President Patrick R. Uhteg said of the students. “This is going to move us forward. We will have to attempt to bridge the gaps.”
Even so, nothing could dampen Korissa’s enthusiasm. Well-spoken and matter-of-fact, Korissa is touched by the support she has received.
Korissa said she rode the bus to school Thursday, “and the kids in the back of the bus started chanting, ‘Let’s go, Legends, let’s go!’ ” replacing what used to be “Redskins” in their popular expression of school spirit.
And when she walked into homeroom, her classmates clapped for her. Red roses, yellow daisies and mums were waiting, along with cupcakes to celebrate – courtesy of Bonnie Blatner, the teacher overseeing the mascot process at the middle-school level.
“It was really exciting, and everyone was really happy for me,” Korissa said, noting that principals congratulated her on a job well done. “It’s just a crazy feeling because you can go places and everyone knows what’s happening in Lancaster, and some people recognize me.”
Her mother, Lancaster alumna Jennifer Gozdziak, is acutely mindful of the lingering resentment.
“The big important thing is the kids and their education,” she said. “… It’s important that the community start to recognize that the forward thinking is a big blessing to us in the community, and putting a positive light on Lancaster.”