Students behind the mask
October 5, 2022
*Editor’s note: To help protect their identities, the pseudonyms “Tammy” and “Matthew” are used to refer to the main sources in this story.
The suit and mask go on, signaling that it’s show time. Harry the Hawk steps into the arena, bright yellow tights and wings waving as students file in for the pep rally. Junior Tammy and sophomore Matthew’s job is not only to entertain, but also to bring school pride. Although completely hidden, a different person comes out within these two once gameday hits. Switching between who wears the suit, both students have a huge role to fill as Harry.
Choosing who will be Harry the Hawk, the symbol of school pride and pep, might appear difficult. However, for cheer coach Courtney Jackson, it was clear where to look for volunteers: the theater department. She said she was searching for people whose personality was full of school spirit and pride.
“We need people who are energetic, who aren’t afraid to [be themselves and] it’s better because they’re anonymous under the mask,” Jackson said. “But when they get in [the suit,] a personality needs to come up. [The hawk] makes [people] smile, and it adds [an] element that [is missing sometimes]; the innocence that it’s an animal [and] a character.”
Upon volunteering, Tammy and Matthew were chosen to fill Harry’s talons.
“We are performers, [and so] there were a lot of volunteers in the [theater department because being the mascot] sounded like a fun opportunity,” Matthew said.
Being thrown into this huge role, Matthew said it has not always been easy. Dealing with a heavy suit and the chaos that comes with gameday, he quickly learned how to take on this responsibility.
“[My first experience] was terrifying [because I had] never actually been to a football game,” Matthew said. “The first game I went to, I didn’t know what was going on. I was just jumping with the team. [When I first tried on the costume,] the zipper wasn’t working, and I didn’t know how to put on the mask properly. I had to figure things out on the spot, [and my] heart was pounding. [I was] so lost, but that also made it fun.”
Tammy said she took on this role to help her come out of her comfort zone. So far, her experience has been fun, she said, as she gets to interact and take pictures with people.
“I’m naturally a very shy person, and I mainly [volunteered] because I wanted to help myself do stuff out of my comfort zone,” Tammy said. “It was something new to try and not care as much about what people think [of me] as I used to – having [people support me] but not knowing it’s [me under the mask.]”
Interactions with kids can be difficult, Matthew said. The mascot is constantly surrounded by kids who are enamored by the hawk, but also kids who are very scared, Jackson said. However, these interactions can be fulfilling; for Tammy, one of her favorite memories is when a little boy at a game gave her a long hug, she said.
“Either [the kids] love you or they hate you, [and] there’s no in between,” Matthew said. “A lot of the small [kids] go up for high fives and hugs [and parents ask if they can take pictures;] it’s very sweet. [However,] sometimes elementary kids and middle schoolers are terrifying. [I learned] to pick out between the crowd on who [I] want to interact with, and who [I] don’t.”
Tammy plans on remaining in the role until she graduates. She’s involved in theater and wants to run for officer positions in the future. She also works hard outside Harry as she’s involved with the student council.
“[Being the mascot has] been pretty fun,” Tammy said. “[Although] I think a lot of people don’t actually [realize sometimes] that [the mascot is an] actual person.”
The mascot gives an element of personification, through the bird, of what Hebron pride is all about, Jackson said. It provides an object to portray school spirit.
“We’re just really glad to have the hawk this year and have people that [want] to fulfill [the] role, and help spread school spirit and school pride,” Jackson said.