New school logo commemorates Pau-Wa-Lu’s silver anniversary |

New school logo commemorates Pau-Wa-Lu’s silver anniversary

by Amy Roby
From left: Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School 6th grade student Nevaeh Montoya, PWL teacher Sarah Sparhawk, and PWL 7th grade student Justin Ericsson.
Adam Dedmon/Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School.

This year, 2019, marks 25 years since Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School (PWL) in the Gardnerville Ranchos opened its doors to students. In honor of PWL’s silver anniversary, the student body was recently invited to submit ideas for a new school logo.

The school is named for the Pau-Wa-Lu branch of the Washoe Tribe, who have called the Carson Valley home for thousands of years. PWL Vice Principal Adam Dedmon said students were encouraged to draw inspiration from the school’s original logo design, which was round and featured local landscape and Native American handcrafted elements.

“We wanted (the updated logo of the school) to reflect our students; something that shows our students are valued and involved,” he said.

Dedmon and sixth grade teacher Sarah Sparhawk reviewed the hand drawn student submissions last month.

Sparhawk, who holds a bachelor’s degree in art education, said the submissions received were a “great combination of the logo we had before but with a new, fresh look.” She said commissioning the artwork from students was intended to provide them with a sense of ownership and buy-in. “We want students to feel that PWL is their space as much as it is for the adults they are with at school.”

Student submissions were narrowed down to two finalists; sixth grader Nevaeh Montoya created the winning design, and seventh grader Justin Ericsson’s artwork earned second place.

Montoya’s enthusiasm for art got her thinking about a design as soon as she heard about the competition. Taking cues from contest guidelines and suggestions, she paid close attention to the original logo.

“Pau-Wa-Lu means ‘people of the valley,’” she said. “The outside border (of the previous logo) is a Native American basket design, and I got inspiration from that.”

Montoya incorporated the school’s panther mascot in the center of her logo and included representations of different classes including math, science, social studies, English, and physical education along the outside border. Mountains are featured in the middle of her design because “there are mountains everywhere (around the school) and it’s always snowing.”

Montoya became immersed in the creative process. “I kept thinking about it and it occupied my thoughts so much,” she said. She originally conceived of a rectangular design, but decided to revise it to a circle once she “realized it would be too big to put on something like a T-shirt.”

She also had to overcome a sense of self-doubt as she formulated her logo idea. While her teachers told Montoya she was talented in art, she didn’t always receive the same supportive input from others. She refused to let that dissuade her, kept at it, and the logo “eventually turned into how I pictured it in my mind.”

On the final day for submissions, Montoya handed in her design then said she “kind of forgot about it.” Last Tuesday, Dedmon called her out of class.

“I was scared!” she said with a smile. She wondered, “‘Why am I getting pulled out of my social studies class?’ He told me I had won the logo contest and I was super happy! I went home and told my mom, and she was super happy.”

When asked what she might say to someone considering putting their work out there, Montoya doesn’t hesitate.

“Just go for it!” she said. “Don’t think about what others might say or not say about whatever you are doing; what really matters is your opinion. Nobody can make you feel inferior unless you let them,” she said. “I learned that from my mom.”

Ericsson heard the contest announcement while working on a similar class project. He’d been searching for business card logos as part of an assignment in his science class, which stoked his interest in the school logo design contest.

Ericsson said that as he worked on his other project, “I was sitting in the classroom and kept thinking, ‘What could I do?’ I got home, grabbed some Sharpies, and started drawing ideas.”

The ideas kept churning for a couple of days. Once he was clear on the image he wanted to create, Ericsson said the whole design took between 45 minutes to 1 hour to complete. He looked to The Jungle Book and Tarzan books for pictures of panthers, and drew a silhouette of a panther walking between a red tree and a black tree (PWL school colors are red and black). A full moon hovers in the background. Beneath the illustration reads, “Pau-Wa-Lu,” and below that, “Learning for 25 Years.”

Ericsson’s experience when he learned he’d created a winning design echoed Montoya’s.

“Mr. Dedmon pulled me out (of class), and I thought I was in trouble! He reminded me about the logo contest and told me I’d won second place, and I was super excited about that!”

Ericsson enjoys drawing and took an art class last year at PWL. He said, “I like creating pieces and trying to detail everything.” He hopes to continue with art classes in high school and has an interest in graphic design.

Montoya’s logo design will be featured on the PWL website, school and sports apparel, yearbook, and other publications. Ericsson’s design will be printed on the school’s letterhead.

Congratulations to both of these young artists.