Sophomore Jasmin Landero was proud to take part in a recent meeting between student representatives and members of Grand Rapids-based Well Design Studio to brainstorm ideas for the new Legends artwork.
“When they made the original decision to change it, I felt like my input wasn’t necessarily included. But now that they have taken the initiative to invite students and athletes, I love that,” Jasmin said. “I feel like it’s a good opportunity for the community to participate in something special, not necessarily defined.
“I love this community; I’ve gone to this school my entire life. When I heard the change I was upset, but then heard about the history of the confederacy and then I was ‘OK; this deserves change.’ Now, I’m open to it, and happy to contribute.”
Superintendent Kenvin Polston called it “critical to have student voice throughout the process. Changing the mascot was about uniting and inspiring our school community.”
Students were involved in initial community forums, participated in submitting nominations for the new name, narrowed the possibilities from 10 to two for the Board to consider, created conceptual designs for the Legends design and met with the designer to create the final design.
“From the beginning, this has been about our students,” Polston said. “To have their involvement will ensure that the final design is representative of their voice.”
Junior Gustavo Romero said it was important to him as an athlete to be at the meeting. “The name and logo means a lot in the sport I play,” said Gustavo, who plays varsity soccer. “I want people to see it and say, ‘Lee Legends, that team is serious and isn’t going to be easy to beat.’ I just take pride in the name that I have on my shirt.
“A Legend is somebody who goes beyond what everybody else does and surpasses everyone’s expectations.”
Working with the Pros
Well Design Studio owner Josh Leffingwell said Lee students “are already becoming the Lee Legends. Honestly, the kids are the most important, the biggest stakeholder in this. You’re never going to make everybody happy, but you can’t go wrong if you’re bringing in this many voices.
“We want to bring their visions forward.”
Lead designer Meg Goeman said students with different interests — artists, athletes, others — were included in brainstorming.
“The nice thing about that is you get a real answer; it speaks to their knowledge,” Goeman said. “Now we’re going to take what we’ve gathered and do a deeper dive with concepts. And we were definitely inspired by their artwork.”
Jesse VanderBand, visual arts teacher at Lee Middle and High School, said there are benefits to his students taking part.
“The first benefit is that students get to work with professionals that have a high standard for design, giving them an inside look at what a career in design could look like,” he said. “The second benefit is that it is a major confidence booster for our kids. The students at Lee are incredibly talented, and seeing their work become an inspiration for full-time, professional artists shows them that they have what it takes to be successful in future art careers themselves.”
A Look at the History
After years of debate and an exploration of the history of the word “Rebels”, the Godfrey-Lee Public Schools Board of Education last summer unanimously approved the new name Legends.
The district received a $98,000 grant from the Native American Heritage Fund and $10,000 from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation last fall to help support the rebranding of their logo and mascot from Rebels to Legends.
Polston said the money will offset costs related to the new logo such as its design, athletic and performing arts uniforms, signage, murals and changing the electronic footprint of the district.
The goal is to have a finished product presented by Well Design Studio at the Board’s March 9 meeting. Polston said it is hoped that the new design will be seen throughout the district by fall.