Students gathered on the lower/middle school field on Friday, Sept. 29, meeting a multitude of mascots from around the city — from the Washington Nationals, American University, Howard University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Maret School and even Sidwell Friends School. After students and staff were seated, a motorcade of black SUVs rolled into the LMS driveway carrying the new GDS Hopper mascot.
Classes ended early for the second annual All-School Spirit Assembly. The purpose of the spirit assemblies is to kick off the year with camaraderie between all of the grades and to get excited for the school year. During this year’s All-School Spirit Assembly, which had the trappings of a presidential inauguration, GDS’ new Hopper mascot was sworn in.
Students dressed as Secret Service agents accompanied the mascot, and students with cameras, imitating paparazzi, followed the mascot around as they took photos. As the Hopper entered the field, high-pitched screams exuded from the crowd.
Many lower schoolers jumped in the air to get a better look. As the new mascot walked onto the field, older students attempted to high-five, hug and take selfies with the Hopper. Students dressed as Secret Service agents responded by yelling at them to “Get out of the way!” and “Back up!”
The new mascot, sporting bulky shoes, new wings, yellow detailing and a six-pack, looked significantly different from the previous Hopper.
Head of School Russell Shaw gave a brief speech after the Hopper greeted students, acknowledging the mark the old mascot made on the school. A group of nine administrators were dressed in cloaks similar to the ones worn by Supreme Court justices.
Kenyan McDuffie, a member of the Council of the District of Columbia, swore the new mascot into its role. The mascot held its hand up to take the oath. McDuffie is on the Board of Trustees and is the parent of a current GDS junior.
Bobby Asher, Director of Student Community Programming and High School Science Teacher, asked junior Kesi McDuffie if she would be willing to reach out to her father, Kenyan McDuffie, to facilitate the swearing-in. “He’s a local dignitary,” Asher said. “It was also fun to have a member of the GDS community to be involved.”
The assembly concluded with seniors standing in two lines and creating an arch with pool noodles. LMS students ran through the arch, one grade at a time, as music played.
The Washington Nationals sent Teddy Roosevelt from the President’s Race and Screech, its bald eagle mascot, to participate. Asher reached out to one of his former students who has family ties to the Nationals. She was “instrumental” in getting the Nationals to join the event, Asher said.
Asher said that Sidwell and Maret “were amazingly helpful and in support of the idea.” Sidwell also sent a member of the athletic department to take photos of students. “The idea of our mascot being part of the brotherhood of mascots in the area is nice,” Asher said, adding that all of the other mascots attended free of charge.
The Community Leadership Corps, also known as CLC, helped plan the event. CLC members met twice to choose their roles in the celebration and to coordinate with Asher.
During one of the CLC meetings to plan the event, senior Ben Fitzpayne said that Asher showed CLC members an image of a Hopper mascot that was different from the costume that was revealed to the school. The unveiling assembly surprised many of the CLC members who had been involved in the planning, as the CLC members expected to see the original design that Asher had shown them.
“He told us there was going to be an unveiling of the new mascot and that we’d each have different roles,” junior Elena LaGuarida White said.
“The roles were paparazzi, Secret Service and hype crew,” Fitzpayne said. The new mascot was “supposed to be a secret and to surprise the students, which I think worked pretty well,” he said.
CORRECTION (Oct. 3 at 10:14 a.m.): The article originally stated that health department chair Caitlin Hutcheon co-organized the All-School Spirit Assembly with Bobby Asher. Hutcheon helped facilitate meetings of the Community Leadership Corps but did not co-organize the assembly.