JACSY mascot, contest return for local students


Jackson County United Way started a campaign in 2019 to bring back its mascot, JACSY the knight, after his extended hiatus.

Bringing him back also meant bringing a contest back.

In preparation, funds were raised to buy a costume for JACSY.

The official program kickoff began March 6 at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School in Seymour, bringing the little knight back in full force.

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Tonja Couch, executive director of United Way; Emily Engelking, director of engagement and development; and JACSY introduced the program to local fourth-graders.

Recently, Jackson County United Way wrapped up its first JACSY contest in more than 20 years.

Some might remember competing in the JACSY poster contest in elementary schools across the county from the 1960s to the late 1990s. During that time, thousands of students drew JACSY on posters and created slogans to be used in United Way’s annual campaign. JACSY stands for JAckson County Serving You.

“We’re so excited that we were able to introduce a new generation of students to JACSY and the spirit of the United Way,” Engelking said. “Fourth grade students were chosen to participate in the new, redesigned version of the contest.”

Engelking said instead of entering just the traditional poster, United Way updated the rules to meet more modern standards and curriculum requirements to make it a more educational experience.

Curriculum of fourth grade focuses on community and roles of citizens, making it the perfect time to talk about community service and ways to get involved in the community.

“We created a lesson to present to the kids about JACSY’s role in the community and how they could create their own projects,” Engelking said. “With the contest, we wanted the kids to get creative and write stories about projects they would want to complete with JACSY’s help.”

Engelking said it was great to see what they came up with and what kids see as real issues in the community.

Jennifer Regruth, a fourth grade teacher at Brown Elementary, said the kids really enjoyed having JACSY drop by their classes. At the end of the lesson, JACSY made a surprise visit for the kids and gave everyone high fives and hugs.

“The interactive lesson kept students involved as they learned about how a community works. The real highlight was the reveal of the new JACSY mascot,” Regruth said. “They all perked up when they saw him walk in the room. The smiles said it all: ‘I know I belong here and I know I can do something.’”

Engelking and JACSY visited classes all over Jackson County to do the lesson, including Seymour-Redding, Seymour-Jackson, Cortland, Emerson, Brown and Medora elementary schools and St. Ambrose Catholic School.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lesson went to eLearning for those who were unable to get an in-person visit by JACSY and Engelking.

By the April 17 deadline, JCUW received essay contest entries from six different classrooms at Brown, Redding and Emerson.

One winner was chosen from each class based on his or her story content and creativity. Winners received a gift card and an offer of doing their projects with the help of United Way.

Winning stories included community project ideas, such as cleaning up parks, helping with homelessness and even an all-shift day care that would take fun field trips.

Stories and JACSY’s back to school video can be seen on the Jackson County United Way Facebook page, facebook.com/myJACSY.

Due to issues connected with COVID-19, United Way is not sharing names of the winners with their work.

United Way board member Laura Ruddick helped out in the classroom and read essay entries for the contest. She noticed how engaged and enthusiastic the kids seemed to be during the lessons and in their stories.

“I could really tell they put thought into their answers. I hope that next year, we are able to follow through and put some of these great ideas into action with the kids,” Ruddick said. “One thing is for sure, the community will be seeing a lot more of JACSY.”

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