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Yuba College celebrates Earth Day, unveils mascot
Ashley Gebb writes that we should celebrate Earth Day by turning off Facebook.
Strolling out in tall brown boots, a gun on his hip and stubble on his chin, Dusty Niner sauntered into the crowd for high-fives, handshakes and the occasional hug.
"Dusty," screamed 3-year-old Damarcus Washington, who had just left preschool. "That's him. Look at his face — he's scary."
The proud 49er with dare in his eyes and a self-assured grin reveled in the glory Thursday, as he made his debut during the Earth Day celebration as Yuba College's first physical mascot.
Yes, most everyone knows the school is home to the 49ers, but in the college's 85-year history, students had never had their own fierce Honker or goofy Mr. G to lead half-time antics or rally sports crowds into spirited cheers.
So last year, they decided their gold-digging icon needed a name. The students debated, voted and landed on Dusty Niner, but he was only an image.
The Associated Students of Yuba College raised funds all year to pay for the one-of-a-kind costume, and gave up their annual trip so the expenses could go toward Dusty's $4,000 price tag.
But it was worth it, said student President Kyle Martin, who donned the costume for the first appearance.
"I am super excited," he said. "It's been a dream for a lot of people, that in 80-plus years of history, we've never had a mascot. He'll incite school spirit, be a P.R. tool and help in recruitment."
Dusty will make the rounds around town, stopping in at high schools and pounding pavement in parades. And he'll undoubtedly be a frequent sight at college events, such as basketball games and maybe graduation, Martin said. Dusty's debut Thursday was selected to coincide with Earth Day, one of the college's largest events of the year, Martin said. His appearance followed a morning of events, including chalk art, a tree planting and a small gardening demonstration.
The mascot circulated around campus after his initial appearance, posing for photos and dancing to a Lady Gaga song when it began playing.
"He looks good," said general education student Tereese Floyd. "I really like mascots, so I'm happy we have one."
History major Jose Hernandez never realized Yuba College lacked a mascot, but every school should have one, he said.
"It's a symbol of the school," Hernandez said.
"I think it gives the college a better reputation," added Floyd.
In addition to Dusty, the Earth Day event included a display of the Automotive Technology Department's Toyota Prius, and students in the Ecology 10 class hung posters they made explaining alternative power sources, such as solar, wind and underwater turbines.
Mass communication student Harold Whitson Jr. created a poster on nuclear power with his group. He was happy he selected ecology to fulfill one of his requirements.
"Coming back to school after 27 years, I figure I could learn a little more about what's going on in the world," he said.
Events like Earth Day are a great way to further his educational experience, he said, and it's a great cause.
"I think everyone should be aware and think about the fact Earth is this beautiful gem of the nine planets in the solar system ... Man has ruined it, and hopefully it's not too late to repair it."
Lisa DeGrasse, volunteering at Earth Day with the Olivehurst Family Resource Center, bought two rubber trees and some aloe vera plants from Green Futures Clubs.
"It's our planet; it's our world," she said. "I don't see why there aren't more people here, supporting that we need a place to walk and air to breathe."
DeGrasse moved to Yuba-Sutter from Nevada County, where Earth Day events abound. She was surprised — and a little disappointed — to discover there were hardly any locally, "although one is at least something," she said.
New Earth Market is hosting its own Earth Day celebration today and JCPenney is holding a cleanup at Ellis Lake from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. with City Councilman Dale Whitmore.
CONTACT reporter Ashley Gebb at 749-4783.