ELLENBORO, W.Va. – A local group created an online petition to change Ritchie County High School’s rebel mascot to promote unity within the area.
Ritchie County graduates Gavin Vincent and Ryan Alexander created a Facebook group called “Ritchie County for Changing the Rebel Mascot” after each had their own post-graduation experiences that caused them to think about the character’s history.
Both Alexander and Vincent said they never viewed the mascot as offensive to anyone until it was pointed out to them by others, which helped them see a new point of view.
“I was confronted outside the community for wearing a shirt-an older gentleman told a friend and I that he didn’t like the rebel mascot and what it stood for and that we needed to be careful where we wore it,” said Vincent.
“I came to WVU and I started getting exposed to more people and different cultures and perspectives and I started to see what the world was really like. I saw what our school name and our mascot represented to other people, and that’s something of hate, oppression and division,” said Alexander.
Both said their main goal is to make everyone feel accepted and like they have a place within the community.
“I wanted to create a change, not for me or for people of past generations, but for people of future generations to come to Ritchie County because I’ve had people of color that were my friends that felt like they didn’t belong there,” said Alexander.
After speaking to the county’s Board of Education about making a possible change, the board was open to the idea and is willing to work towards making a change. The mascot has been slightly changed in the past and board members said they are willing to do it again.
“They want to change the rebel mascot to something that embodies the original intentions and the current school values,” said Vincent.
The group hopes to speak to the board again at the end of the month.