Chances like those recently presented to Walton Rural Life Center come along only so often. Usually, there is a lengthy expansion or relocation process that comes with the territory. However, in Walton's case, there was simply a void to fill — the school needed a mascot.

While historically the old Walton High School adopted the Wildcat as its mascot, that lineage had not been carried on with Walton Rural Life Center, according to principal Jason Chalashtari. Seeing the rest of the elementary schools in USD 373 create mascots (i.e. the Northridge Gators, Slate Creek Twisters, etc.) that also happened to provide a nickname for the buildings' multi-tier system of supports time, Walton decided to take a page out of their playbook — bringing forth its mascot proposal, a ram, to the Newton school board this week.

The Newton district collectively embraces the Railroader mascot, and Chalashtari noted that would continue to be the case, but allowing the creation of Walton's ram mascot would also foster a separate, unique identity that could strengthen and bond the school community even more through use on the school's website, informational flyers and even clothing (for PTO fundraisers, etc.).

Attending district meetings and regularly seeing what the other elementary buildings had employed for MTSS (a time dedicated to additional instruction in reading, math, etc.) was a big part of the push for Walton's new mascot, Chalashtari admitted. While it provides a nickname that aligns perfectly with the MTSS initiative, it also fits with the school's identity — another reason there was movement on the recent adoption.

"Obviously being an ag-themed school, our thought process went along the lines of maybe something in agriculture," Chalashtari said. "Rams was a name that had come up several times, so the acronym was perfect — reading, arts, math and science — and obviously a ram is something you'd find in the agricultural field, and so it just fit."

Starting among faculty at Walton Rural Life Center, Chalashtari said that given the history of the previous Walton High School the idea for a new mascot was also brought before the site council (including some former students of WHS).

Like most who would be impacted be the change, the site council was all for the adoption of the new ram mascot.

"They had no issue with us going forward with a completely new, fresh idea. It really was a positive all the way around," Chalashtari said.

Besides aligning with the district's MTSS initiative, Walton Rural Life Center is taking the learning one step further with the implementation of the new mascot.

A decision on the mascot itself has been made, but there is a civics lesson being planned as well, with school staff leaving the naming rights up to the student body. Name options will be voted on among classes to make the ballot, with an election to be held on Nov. 7 to decide the ram's moniker. While the process has been well-received already, it is this last measure that Chalashtari believes will make it resonate all the more.

"We try to tie in real world experiences, so I think that even our young kids, but particularly our older kids, they're going to remember," Chalashtari said. "That's when learning sticks is when it's practical and real world, and so that's something we always try to do."

"I think it's just kind of a really unique experience," Chalashtari said. "They get to start something fresh and new that will stay with the school for a long time."

Currently, Walton Rural Life Center is already utilizing the ram mascot, but there will also be official action taken by the Newton school board at its November meeting.