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YPSILANTI: Ypsilanti Community Schools blends history, cultures during mascot discussion

By Leslie McGraw
Special Writer. Ypsilanti Courier, March 21, 2103

Community members joined alumni and students from Ypsilanti and Willow Run High Schools in a public forum to discuss the mascot and school colors for the Ypsilanti Community Schools.

Maria Sheler-Edwards, who is a professional communicator and trustee on the unified school board for Ypsilanti Public Schools, led the group through a number of exercises to help people share their ideas, see and vote on ideas of others, as well as the reasons behind those ideas. The meeting met objectives but nothing has been decided yet.

“The objective here is to come away with five-to-10 options that we can share with the advisory committee,” she said. 

This advisory committee is comprised of community members, business owners and alumni from both schools and will make a recommendation to the board of education based on the public forums and a community survey.

The goals for the new united mascot and colors included having a fresh start, history, uniqueness, pride and that it represents and embodies the quality of all the people it affects.

Although participants agreed on the goals, members expressed a wide array of opinions on how to reach these goals. For alumni and other community members, the change is a way to set the new school apart and highlight the unique historical aspects of the area. Some of the choices that yielded the most votes were the Ypsi Flyers and the Liberators.

Shane Edwards, who graduated from Willow Run in 2004, voted for the Liberators.

“Back during World War II, Willow Run produced B24 bombers that helped liberate Europe,” he said. “It carries a lot of history and it is unique. No other school can claim this.” 

Many others in the audience chimed in with similar stories.

“To add the Liberators, Ypsilanti was a station for people coming up north, it was an official underground railroad as of 1840s. We liberated Europe. But we also liberated a lot of other people,” said Walter Ellerbe III, who graduated from Ypsilanti High School in 1992.

Many of the current students from Ypsilanti and Willow Run felt that the focus should steer more towards making history rather than remembering it.

“The Liberators is a fine name for an exhibit or a museum,” said Ypsilanti High School junior Christian Cannon. “We want the story behind it to come from us so that 100 years from now, people can look back and trace the heritage and look at the link to success. We can represent the history with the mascot and the fresh start with the colors.”

Cannon came to the forum prepared. Prior to the forums, he helped to organize a Facebook group and wrote a letter proposing the name “The Royals” as the mascot using a color from each of the schools, preferably red and gold. He attached the letter and a sketch of the proposed mascot to a petition and circulated it among students at Ypsilanti High, Willow Run, New Tech and West Middle schools, obtaining 500 signatures.

A decision is scheduled to be made on the schools’ mascot and colors by the end of April.

Written by -

Leslie discovered the power of the pen in the third grade after her family moved to a new school district. Writing became a way to sort out her new surroundings and escape to fantasy landscapes. That child, and voice, has matured into a poet, writer, blogger, journalist, online content creator and editor. Leslie is a social entrepreneur with a demonstrated commitment to community. She is an active community member in Washtenaw County (Michigan) with expertise in social media marketing and content management systems, volunteer coordination and writing and 19 years of experience in the areas of online community management, training, leadership development, and social networking. She is interested in facilitating connection with both community residents and businesses. Through this work, the economy of the community is improved and the organizations are financially successful. Her main mode of advocacy and online community, however, is through writing.

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