Okemos Public Schools to announce new mascot logo

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On Feb. 14, the Okemos school board, which met at the Administration Center (shown above), unanimously approved a recommended action from the Jan. 28 meeting to change the district’s mascot. <Photo Credit: Jake Lyskawa>

After years of deliberation, Okemos Public Schools officially has a new mascot, the Wolves, necessitating an updated logo.

In determining its new logo, the school district is also responsible for replacing the current one across the district. 

Superintendent John Hood said the district asked the community to submit new logo designs. The final design will be released at the March 14 board meeting, and it will feature aspects of multiple design concepts. 

“Our goal is not to choose one, it’s to look at the themes we like in the artwork that’s coming forth, and then to work with a graphic designer to make sure those themes are represented,” Hood said. 

The district will also be taking student input into account when looking at design submissions.

“Our mascot logo must be gender inclusive, and represent all students and also be representative of diverse student groups,” Hood said at the school board meeting on Feb. 14. 

“Our students were really adamant about that. This is not just for athletics, this is for students across different affinity groups, different interests.”

The Native American Heritage Fund provided roughly half of the $425,000 total that is needed to update logos across the district. The other half will be funded by the district. 

A historic change

School board members approved the Wolves as the new mascot after two rounds of community survey input and one round of student survey input, according to a statement released by Hood.

Before they were known as the Wolves, Okemos Schools had been using the “Chiefs” as their mascot for many years. This term is considered highly offensive to the Native American population, and as more professional sports teams began to phase out their racially insensitive nicknames in the mid to late-2010s, Okemos Schools renewed its focus on doing the same.

In early 2020, residents in Okemos presented Hood with a message to encourage administrators to take a serious look at the use of the mascot. 

“What came to us, really, was after George Floyd’s murder, we had a letter come from current students and alumni, signed by hundreds and hundreds of them, saying there’s some systemic issues of racism in the Okemos Schools that they wanted to have addressed,” Hood said.

“[The letter] asked, ‘how can a district that has an equity plan and talks about togetherness and treating all individuals, especially those from marginalized populations, with respect, have this as a mascot name?’”

While the change has been a divisive topic since the late 1980s, Hood and the school board felt it was necessary to honor the wishes of the Native American community above all else. 

“We always have had some Native American people come out and say, ‘we support this, we support that name staying,’” Hood said. “But what we really wanted was to get the governance of the tribes to weigh in and [ask them] ‘what is your wish?’”

The 12 tribes of the state of Michigan were unanimous in terms of wanting districts to move away from the use of these mascots, said Hood.

The school board then founded a committee composed of many Native American representatives to determine the best way to go about changing the mascot.

A timeline of events showing the mascot change process. Source: Okemos Public Schools. <Graphic credit: Jake Lyskawa>

Adjusting to something new

While the change is something that everyone will have to get used to, some students feel ok with it, given the amount of input they had in selecting the new mascot. 

“The school was very transparent in the mascot process,” Okemos High School senior Lindsey Korb said. “We had a board of students and staff that were there to help and we had multiple surveys to get the student body’s involvement.”

Incorporating the new mascot within the school on a daily basis is also helping to ease the change in the community.

“At first a few people didn’t really like it, but especially now that our sports have embraced it through the basketball student section and stuff like that, I think most people are cool with the change,” said Okemos High School senior Alex Beal.

“It’s a step in the right direction for sure and I’m excited to see how they work it into and around the school,” Korb said.

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