When Apner Aponte, 16, stepped into Coral Park Senior High for the first time last year he knew he wanted to bring change.
That’s why when he first laid his eyes on the school’s mascot, Ramsy, he was convinced he had to wear it.
Now a sophomore, Apner plays the role of Ramsy, but he can’t bring as much excitement as he would like because the costume is deteriorating and the school has no funds to buy a new one.
“The costume is getting beat up and it’s not because we don’t take care of it,” he said. “I take care of it the best I can. The head is made of paper mache. When it gets humid it breaks apart.”
Apner was selected to play the role of Ramsy when he was a freshman. He makes about 50 appearances throughout the school year including pep rallies and sporting events. The costume has been around for about six years.
“Since I sweat a lot, it could create bacteria,” Apner said. “I think am at risk of getting sick.”
There have been times where he has had to personally sew it. Also, he can’t make appearances at every sporting events outdoors as rain could destroy the costume. He carries it from home to school in a large blue duffel bag.
The school’s assistant principal, Christina Perez-Bellon, said the school lacks funding for a costume. She applauds Apner’s dedication to bringing in a new costume to the school.
“It’s a great effort,” she said. “If we can get alumni or anyone in the community in getting a new Ramsy outfit it would be something positive for the school.”
Another issue Apner faces with the costume is that it lacks a cooling system. That’s why he carries a water pack to provide water, while he performs. He covers it with a red cape, which he added.
A quality mascot attire with a cooling system could cost between $3,000 to $5,000.
Apner’s coach, Maria Handal, an alumna and teacher at the school, actually performed as Ramsy in her high school days. She spoke highly of Apner’s ambition.
“He is a person that is a go getter,” she said, during practice. “Our students are like that. We come from a school that most of our kids are on free or reduced lunch so what happens is that they do their own fundraising. We need that added support from the community. They do it because they are the face of the school.”
In the past, the school had an actual ram as a mascot, but Handal said that the maintenance of the animal was met with challenges. Regardless, the school has always had a person wear a mascot costume, which provides lots of energy added Perez-Bellon.
“He is a legend,” said Perez-Bellon referring to Ramsy. “He is the spirit of our events. He gets the crowd pumped. Its important we have the mascot looking good.”
Apner’s mentor Juan D’Arce said a mascot can bring a ray of hope to the school.
“In this day and age of cuts, I think pep rally, basketball and football games, where kids cheer and get excited is the least we can do,” he said. “This could bring some graduates or maybe some mentors that want to give back.”
Apner said he is ready to carry the spirit throughout the school.
“I have so much to offer, but I don’t have anything to work with,” he said.