It started in 2010 with a simple question posed by an elementary school student. “Why don’t you have a mascot?” The question resonated with Tarrant County College’s Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley. She and James Spaniolo, president of The University of Texas at Arlington, were attending an event at Charles Nash Elementary School. After seeing how the students gravitated to Blaze, UTA’s mascot, Hadley reaffirmed her longstanding desire for TCC to have a mascot, so she set the wheels in motion to make it happen.
“TCC has always been very involved with the community, in outreach events and worked with local schools to instill a college-going mindset from an early age,” said Cacy Curtis, coordinator of public information services at the time Toro’s development began. “Chancellor Hadley saw an opportunity to take our community presence up a notch with the launch of a college mascot. It also was a great opportunity to enhance school spirit among current TCC students and alumni.”
In 2010, a committee was established to select, design and unveil TCC’s new mascot. “The committee felt it was very important to engage the campuses and student/faculty population in the selection process to assure everyone felt a part of the process and pride in the result,” Curtis said. “The response was overwhelming and everyone really rallied around the concept of launching TCC’s first mascot.”
Initially, “Trailblazers” was selected from a list of 500 names from Student Development Services on each campus. “I was excited to get the opportunity to develop a mascot character that captured the fighting spirit of TCC’s leadership, student body, faculty and staff,” said Arturo Martinez, district director of creative services.
Angel Briseno, graphics coordinator, sketched out ideas for the mascot, which included a Spartan, puma, stallion and bull. Ultimately, the team chose the bull. According to Briseno, the mascot needed to show excitement, so he drew the bull charging. “I wanted to convey to the students to charge forward in their academic studies.”
In October 2010, a “Name the Mascot Survey” asked TCC students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members to submit suggestions for the Trailblazer’s name. Approximately 2,600 submissions were received, with 84 percent from students. Spanish for "bull," the name, "Toro," was selected.
More than 1,200 comments accompanied survey submissions — the majority of them positive. Among the ones received: “I love the mascot! It signifies how the students are blazing their trail to the future,” and “His demeanor is strong, focused and determined, and hardworking. . .all characteristics of our faculty, staff and most importantly, student body!”
Now that Toro the Trailblazer had his name, he needed a costume — several actually — one for each campus.
Once the costumes arrived, Toro required an actor to bring him to life. An employee with previous mascot experience donned the suit for Toro’s debut at the Employee Appreciation Breakfast in 2011.
Toro was a hit with staff, faculty and students. According to Curtis, requests for appearances at the campuses and in the community far exceeded expectations.
Toro also found a fan in the Chancellor. Toro also found a fan in the Chancellor. “Chancellor Hadley always had such a passion for anything that could be done to go above and beyond. She was continuously thinking of ways to make TCC better for students and our community,” said Curtis. “Toro helped do just that, and no one was more excited about it than she was! I vividly remember her having fun and dancing with Toro at one of the first appearances and the joy and pride she showed in that moment.”
Following Toro’s debut at the Employee Appreciation Breakfast, Danelle Toups, assistant director of library services at TCC Trinity River, was asked if she played Toro. After all, it seemed like something she would do. “I said, ‘Yeah, I probably would!’ The next thing I know, I get a call, ‘Can you be Toro?’”
Toups, as it turns out, proved to be an excellent actor for Toro. “It is so much fun!” she exclaimed. “One of the things I love about working for TCC is the opportunity to do all this crazy stuff. I’ve never been a character before, but I get to do it now!”
These days, Toups’ appearances as Toro are limited primarily to graduation, with other appearances handled by students. She assists with recruiting and training actors.
A summer working for Disney World while attending college gave Toups the mascot mindset. It was the basis for the Toro the Trailblazer Mascot Manual she developed to train students. This summer, Toups hopes to complete a mascot training video to be available at all campuses.
What qualities are required to play Toro? According to Toups, first and foremost: dependability. “Once we say Toro will be there, we can’t have people flaking out at the last minute. It’s a big deal,” she said. Also, the willingness to be silly and have fun, as well as get sweaty. For their efforts, students receive $50 for every two-hour appearance.
One student who has embraced these qualities is Olivia Thomas, student government association secretary at TCC Trinity River. “I get to act silly and goofy like I do at home without someone looking at me crazy,” she said. The biggest challenge about playing Toro? “Remembering Toro doesn’t talk.”
Well, except the one time Toro talked to a student worker named Tony. Toups knew Tony from his work in the TCC Trinity River Library. She also knew about the tough life he led. Before coming to TCC, Tony served a prison sentence for selling drugs. While attending TCC, he was shot outside a local nightclub and spent several days in the hospital. However, Tony persevered, making Toups proud. At graduation that year, Toro shocked him when he said, “Congratulations, Tony!”
Toro made more than 40 appearances last year, with a number of them at area schools. “Toro’s appearance at local schools is important in various aspects — it brings excitement and energy at events, connects us to the community and helps brand the TCC name,” said Noemi Vela, director, college access & community outreach.
Toro, being a Trailblazer, embodies things we know our students need to have — resilience, grit and tenacity — and that’s what this character can embody by just being there. That’s what he stands for. I would love for someone to see Toro and say, ‘That’s TCC.’
Danelle Toups, Assistant Director of Library Services
Request Toro to appear at an event.