The force behind the mascot at Emmaus High School
“I saw an ad [for the student mascot] on Twitter and I began emailing Mr. Zimmerman...,” Zach, who is identified as being high functioning autistic, explained.
EHS has now gained an enthusiastic mascot and Zach has found a niche.
Encouraged by his parents, Jen and Chris Conner, to become involved in school activities, Zach applied for and obtained the position of mascot on his own. His mother first learned of her son’s new endeavor when the assistant athletic director contacted her. She quoted Zimmerman as saying, “We think he’d be a perfect fit.”
Although initially nervous about meeting the cheerleaders, Zach received a warm welcome.
As the Emmaus Hornet, he supports the cheering squad in raising school spirit at football and basketball games. Zach has also participated in several team fundraisers and will be appearing May 4 at the Special Olympics being held at Whitehall High School.
Zach believes the role of the mascot is “to promote school spirit and community spirit to support our school.” His plan is to be the mascot until he graduates in 2020.
“I feel it is important to have a high school mascot for it is a representation of our school that students can rally around,” Zach said.
As predicted, Zach is proving to be perfect for the role of mascot; a young admirer gave him a drawing which he humorously refers to as his “fan letter.”
Zach said it is fun, “when the cheerleaders stunt me by lifting me up in the air and when the younger children give me hugs.”
However, the Hornet costume is another matter. Zach said the uniform, “has seen better days.
“I did have a horrifying experience when I was throwing confetti to the students at the student section and my arm hit my mascot head and it fell off in front of everyone. It was after that experience that we felt there has to be a better designed mascot suit so this wouldn’t happen again and with the new suit, I can possibly be more interactive with the cheer squad, dance team and sports teams,” Zach said.
In partnership with the Green Hornet Touchdown Club, Zach and his family have begun a mascot makeover campaign to raise the $5,000 needed to purchase a new uniform for the Emmaus Hornet. Jen Conner said many of the booster clubs are supporting these efforts as well. On March 1, a gofundme account was established (https://www.gofundme.com/mascotmakeover) and a variety of other fundraising events are planned. During girls and boys lacrosse games, fliers explaining the purpose of the fundraiser will be available adjacent to donation buckets, and Zach’s family has organized a bingo party May 6 at Emmaus Fire Company #1. All proceeds will go to the mascot makeover drive. Susan Eugster, suze graphics, has offered her professional services for advertising the fundraiser.
Other avenues of revenue are also being investigated.
To compliment his new look, the mascot is in need of a new name. Traditionally known as “Buzz,” the mascot must be renamed in order to avoid copyright infringement. A variety of names are under consideration. The campaign’s goal is to unveil the newly named and rejuvenated Hornet at the school’s 2018-2019 fall pep rally.
Zach’s success as the Emmaus Hornet is part of a larger personal journey toward autonomy.
Identified as falling within the autism spectrum, Zach was fully mainstreamed with an aide by fourth grade. He received in-school support through grade eight, but upon entering high school stepped out on his own. He retains only a case manager with whom he and his family meet once a year to review and revise his Individual Educational Plan.
“The best part [of being the mascot] is I get to be part of sporting events and school events that I typically would not be participating in as an athlete or student due to my autism,” Zach said. “I am not athletic at all!”
April is Autism Awareness Month and Zach is an ideal ambassador for autistic children. He maintains good grades and participates in social events. After high school, Zach hopes to become an EHS math teacher. His autism is merely one facet of a full, interesting and increasingly independent life.
For more information on the Emmaus Hornet and the mascot makeover, visit @EHSHornetfun on Twitter or the Facebook page – Emmaus High School Mascot “The Hornet.”
For more information on autism, visit www.autism-society.org.
Jen Conner said both Elwyn’s ARCH of Lehigh Valley and Good Shepherd have been great resources for the family. “Both of these places have been simply amazing and he would not be where he is today without the help of the services we received.”