CENTRAL SQUARE — Every time Alex Roberts donned the Redhawks mascot costume, his personality and the school spirit of his surrounding Central Square peers began to soar.
Roberts, who recently concluded his senior year at Paul V. Moore High School, served as the district mascot for each of the last two years and was presented with the 2020 Redhawk Award at the recent senior athletics banquet for his contributions to school sports.
Roberts suited up to take on the mascot character named ‘Bianca,’ by the district student government and took pride in being able to uplift fans and young students at homecoming parades, pep rallies, occasional varsity games and other school functions.
“I was pretty excited that I got the Redhawk Award, it made me feel happy,” Roberts said during a recent phone interview.
Roberts has held a lifelong affection for mascots and cited his favorite as ’Otto the Orange,’ from Syracuse University.
He also holds fond memories of attending Nationals Park with his family and watching the traditional “President’s Race,” which features multiple mascots for the Washington Nationals baseball team representing former U.S. presidents running around the field.
Roberts, who was diagnosed with autism in elementary school, first took note of the Redhawk costume when he attended the annual Oswego County Olympiad Invitational, and he soon started to think of what it might be like to become the mascot.
Roberts expressed his desire to don the suit prior to his junior year and joined student government in order to be considered for the role. He was eventually chosen for the position and his first appearance came during the 2018 homecoming parade.
“My junior year, I got to wear it for the homecoming parade,” Roberts said. “I had fun doing it, and people took lots of pictures. I thought it was pretty fun to be able to have fun with the kids.”
To prepare for the role, Roberts wore the suit during the school day and practiced walking between district offices to get a feel for the costume and the various vision and balance adjustments required, greeting people along the way.
He then walked his first parade later that night and said he had fun interacting with people in the community and stopping for photos with younger kids eager to say hello.
“They don’t know who is actually in the costume, they don’t know who it is, and you can have fun and do silly things,” Roberts said.
Roberts became an instant hit as the secret identity behind ‘Bianca the Redhawk,’ and flourished in the role as it extended to pep rallies and some football outings.
He soon began to request more exposure for the mascot and was granted permission to wear the suit for additional games and district-wide events, including senior night for the girls lacrosse team last spring.
“He’d always make you smile, and I know he got a big kick out of the fact that nobody knew who it was,” said Central Square athletic director, James Drancsak.
Roberts also took on the Redhawk mascot persona to conduct a “mystery reader,” period with a district kindergarten class this past year, and by the time he was finished, was being enthusiastically requested by students in the neighboring classroom to read another book as the Redhawk.
Christine Roberts said that she and her husband, Chuck, were amazed to see their son blossom and soak up the large crowd in his initial Redhawks debut after he would largely try to avoid those environments.
During games, Roberts said he always had fun helping to lead “The Flock,” which is the term given to represent the large and always-energetic Central Square student section.
“It made him a completely different person, it was like he just came out of his shell with it,” Christine Roberts said. “It was a very proud moment for us because for him to want to do something like that, it’s out of his comfort zone, and it meant a lot to us, and it was nice to see him start to advocate with the adviser in student government to take the Redhawk to different events.”
Roberts took good care of the Redhawk suit and was responsible for keeping each piece intact, clean, and ready for the next use. The costume featured a fan in the headpiece and cold-packs or handwarmers were able to be added to the interior to help combat any weather conditions.
He was also primarily responsible for obtaining a spotter at each event. The school typically requires a second student to accompany the mascot at each outing to help them maintain balance and vision.
Grace Roberts — Alex’s younger sister and a three-sport athlete who will enter her sophomore year in the fall — would often fill that role and Alex would typically request to wear the Redhawk suit to her sporting events.
Alex Roberts also helped the athletics department at the ticket gates for football games and was a frequent friendly visitor to the athletics office or officials table at games in which he attended outside of the mascot suit.
Drancsak said that Roberts was the “no-brainer,” choice when the staff was considering candidates for the Redhawk Award earlier this month.
“He’s the kind of kid that, it didn’t matter what kind of day you were having, he can put you in a good mood,” Drancsak said. “He’s just a happy-go-lucky kind of kid and can just totally change your whole day, whatever was going on he can make you feel better.”