Students asked, district listened

District to move forward with mascot change in response to student activism

Sarah Brager, editor, photographer

One of many infographics designed by Zoe Reyna.

In light of the changing social and political climate, students are advocating for complete abandonment of the Hays Rebel mascot, and all of the history associated with it. While the school has already rid itself of some connections to the Confederacy, such as the Confederate flag which once waved on school grounds, and the fight song Dixie, many believe this is not enough to disassociate from the offensive history. They district announced they are open to the change if there is enough student support to back the cause, so they released a survey to gather where people stand.

In response to this request, rising senior Alena Hernandez organized a group of students in favor of changing the mascot. Her hope is that with enough promotion of their cause and spread of information, the group can draw more students to the district’s survey and make it clear this is something the students want.

“I knew there was no way I could do this alone. I tired to gather a diverse group of students that have displayed a passion for activism and making a difference,” Hernandez said.

The plan for this student group is simple: share information and petitions on social media with their fellow students. Because this issue is in the hands of the students, it’s important to Hernandez and the rest of her group that they seek out fellow supporters of this movement. They have been doing so by posting a number of informational messages on Instagram relating to the history of the Rebel and why it should be disbanded.

“Social media advocacy has definitely grown during quarantine and that made posts and infographics like mine easy to digest and share. I feel really lucky that through social media, we are able to educate our peers and get their support while they are still in high school,” student activist Zoe Reyna, 12, said.

The results of the district’s survey shows a success for these students. According to a statement issued on July 6, 59.37% of students who completed the survey show “little-to-no comfort level with mascot.” Faculty members also completed this survey, and they displayed even greater discomfort with the Rebel mascot, with 71.91% in favor of change. With these numbers, the district will recommend a change to the Board of Trustees, who are responsible for the final decision.

“The administrative recommendation, and the potential Board decision to change the mascot, is not intended to erase campus history or cast any type of judgement on past supporters of the Hays High School rebels. Hays CISD is a much different community than it once was, and so is the world. The administration believes that it is time to change the mascot and open a new chapter at Hays High School,” the district wrote.

With this news, Hernandez and Reyna, as well as many others, are hopeful about the school’s future. The Board still needs to make a decision, so the change is not set-in-stone. Students need to continue voicing their opinion and spreading awareness, and these young activists are aware of this.

“It was definitely a moment of relief to see the support we have turned into a numerical value of sorts, but even then I knew this was not over. It was really nice to see our progress, it was so rewarding. We’re about halfway through this fight and I’m ready to finish it!” Hernandez said.

The district released another student survey allowing people to recommend their top choice for the new mascot. The results will be used to determine a recommendation to the Board. It closes at noon on Thursday, July 9.

Access the survey here: