Napa High students announce new mascot

Members of the Napa High School leadership team celebrated the announcement Friday that the new mascot is Grizzly.

Napa High School’s new mascot identity is now the Grizzly following a landslide runoff election, it was announced Friday during the school’s lunch break.

Hundreds of students gathered in the quad where the marching band performed before senior Johnny Torres announced to the crowd that Grizzly had overwhelmingly beaten out Husky for Napa High’s mascot.

The vote, according to school district spokesperson Elizabeth Emmett, was 1,542 for Grizzly out of 1,816 ballots cast on Thursday.

The crowd’s reaction to the announcement reflected the election outcome, with few cheering for Husky and far more yelling in support for Grizzly.

Napa High, formerly the Indians, had to choose a new mascot identity following a decision by the Napa Valley Unified School District Board of Education to end the use of Native American names and imagery for school mascots.

A mascot committee, consisting of students, parents, staff and alumni, collected about 200 suggestions in May from the community. They whittled down the submissions to eight choices: Bold, Grizzly, Husky, Lion, Mountain Lion, Pride, Stars or Thunder.

Students and staff voted on the eight options on Wednesday, the first day of school. Grizzly and Husky received the most votes during the first round of voting and went into a runoff election held Thursday during fourth period.

Reaction to the new mascot was mixed, with some students saying they didn’t like Grizzly, or that it was “dumb,” according to ninth-grader Dylan Scopesi.

Torres, the school’s rally commissioner who stood on stage in the quad with other members of the student leadership team to make the announcement, said he and others would have preferred to remain Indians.

“I miss the Indian,” said Torres after he announced the winner. “I feel like a lot of the student body misses the Indian. A lot are not happy that we had to choose a new mascot.”

“But,” he added, “we’re happy with the decision” about Grizzly. “We’re pretty excited about that, and we’re excited for what’s to come.”

Ninth-grader Jenny Leighton, a third-generation Napa High student, said she was fine with Grizzly.

“All my family has graduated with the Indian, and I haven’t,” said Leighton. “But the school is still the same. It’s fine. We’re still Napa High. Nothing’s going to change except the mascot.”

Torres as well as other students and teachers suggested Friday that the word Napa, according to some, means Grizzly in a Native American language, giving the new mascot name a connection to the school’s original Indian identity.

“We found out just a couple days ago that one of the meanings of the word Napa is an Indian name for grizzlies, and grizzlies used to roam in Napa over a hundred years ago when Napa High first opened its doors,” said teacher and spirit team leader Hollie Schmidt.

Schmidt, a 1984 Napa High graduate, said five generations of her family have gone to the school. The mascot issue was divisive, she acknowledged, but said it was time for the community “to come together.”

“The reason why the Indian was so meaningful for myself and my family wasn’t because of the word Indian,” Schmidt said. “It was because of the amazing experience I had at Napa High School. It was because of the passionate teachers, passionate coaches, the incredible friends we made, and I really feel that we need to not take this new chapter in Napa High School’s life away from these kids.”

Other alumni at school Friday agreed with Schmidt, saying it is time to move on.

“I’m looking forward to making this mascot work for the school,” said Sari Cabral, a retired Napa High teacher and 1967 alumna, who served on the mascot committee. She said she would have preferred to keep the Indian, but admitted “it’s gone.”

“Promoting the Grizzly is part of the solution,” she said.

“I want the kids to get behind it, I want the community to get behind it,” Cabral said. “We need to close it off so we can just be proud of Napa High. That’s what it is all about.”

Now that the school has a new mascot name, work will begin on creating a new logo. A new committee consisting of students and others will be formed to oversee this process, according to Schmidt and Cabral.

No timeline or goal has been set for when the logo will be established. But there is an “urgency,” according to Emmett, to create a logo so sports teams and other groups can update uniforms, banners and other paraphernalia.

“At Big Game,” Schmidt said, “when they send out their Crusher mascot, we want to have a mascot represented.”

“Our spirit has been at a standstill for the last two years because of the controversy of the Indian,” she said.

But now that the school has decided on a new name and identity, students will have the chance to “feel great about their school,” according to Schmidt.

“They want to dress up” and “be prideful with their school,” she said. “I really hope the community can come together so we can move forward in a positive direction for the sake of our kids.”

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American Canyon Eagle editor

Noel Brinkerhoff has been editor of the American Canyon Eagle since 2014. Prior to that he covered state politics in Sacramento for the California Journal.