California School Class Adopts Mason

Posted: July 17, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Nick Walker

Gunston, Mason’s mascot, has gone green, he’s gone gold, and now he’s gone west. A class of students at Agua Caliente School in Cathedral City, Calif., has adopted the furry mascot and, at the same time, taken an interest in Mason.

Their expected graduation year: 2022.

A letter from second-grade teacher Amy Kudlac to Mason has led to a partnership between Mason and the students at the elementary school.

Teacher Kudlac
Second-grade teacher Amy Kudlac introduced her students to Mason.

Kudlac’s students are participating in a schoolwide initiative called “No Excuses University” that is designed to encourage college aspirations among its students. Each class at Agua Caliente adopts one college.

“A lot of them didn’t even know what a college was when I first introduced it,” Kudlac says. “Agua Caliente is in a very low-income area. Most of the parents don’t speak English, and college isn’t really talked about.”

Explaining her decision to choose Mason, Kudlac says, “My in-laws live in Fairfax Station, and we’ve gone to a couple of basketball games.”

“When we heard about the idea, we thought it was really cool, and we said we’d love to help,” says Lisa Snyder, associate director of the Leadership and Development Office in University Life.

Snyder started a pen pal program between the students at Agua Caliente and the Mason students on the Leadership Empowerment and Motivation Team, also known as the “L-Team.”

San Agliente class
The students at Agua Caliente School have become Patriots.

Katie Bowen, one of the members of the L-Team, is a Mason junior.

“Lisa approached our group and said, ‘We have this great idea to be pen pals with these students. You’ll each get two, and you’ll be pen pals, and you’ll write them a letter about Mason,’” Bowen says. “So one day we went to the study lounge, got out our arts and crafts [supplies], and wrote the letters.”

Flat Gunston
Mason’s L-Team created Flat Gunston so that he could be sent to the California class in an envelope.

The L-Team came up with the idea for “Flat Gunston,” a takeoff on the “Flat Stanley” book series. As the story goes, a basketball player fell on Gunston during a game, making him a flat mascot. He was therefore able to travel through an envelope to visit with the students.

Alissa Karton, assistant to Vice President for University Life Sandy Hubler, sent the students Mason paraphernalia from the bookstore.

“It just seemed like a fantastic project to be a part of, so I sent a big box full of stuff to the students,” Karton says.

Thanks to Karton and others, Kudlac’s students received T-shirts, pendants, temporary tattoos, pencils, baby Gunstons and more. Kudlac says, “Each class has its own college, and every Monday we all wear college T-shirts to school.”

“Just to see their smiling faces wearing Mason gear was worth whatever we had to do to make it happen,” Karton says.

In response, Bowen and the other pen pals received handwritten letters, drawings and photographs from Kudlac’s students.

One student wrote:

“Dear GMU staff, We have been learning about college. Is Gunston real? Is he nice? I have a dream. My dream is that one day I could be an artist and I am going to college to get my career of being an artist. What was your dream? I think your dream was that you wanted to work at a college. Thank you for all the awesome, great gifts. And for the shirts. Thank you so much. Sincerely, Juana.”

Elementary school classroom
The classroom is decorated in Mason style and emphasizes words and concepts associated with college.
Agua Caliente class photos courtesy of Amy Kudlac

“They all really enjoy it,” Kudlac says. “They learn college vocabulary words, like what a dormitory is, and what it means to graduate. In second grade, they are already saying things like, ‘I’m going to get a scholarship, I’m going to go to Mason, and I’m going to see Gunston.’”

“Ms. Kudlac did a great job, and we’d like to work with her again,” Snyder says. “It’s something I would like to do in the fall, so hopefully we could partner together all year long.”

“I just want to say thank you,” Kudlac says. “Mason has done a lot for us in comparison to the other colleges. I’ve been showing off all the stuff you guys have given to us, so we feel pretty lucky.”

Elementary student drawing
A drawing sent to Mason by one of the second graders.

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