If you’ve attended any of Rappahannock Community College’s hosted activities or visited their booth at a football game, motorsports race, or benefit, you may have had the opportunity to meet or even get a snapshot with the college’s mascot, Squall the Seagull.
While the mascot has no voice of its own, the person inside the suite has one and is proud to share his pride for his college.
Kainen Phillips, a graduate of Essex high and current student at RCC, has played the role of Squall since Fall 2016.
“It’s really a fascinating experience,” he says of his work with the mascot. “You get to travel a lot, have all these little benefits with the crowd … see different schools, different games, be a part of activities.”
Of all the activities that keep him busy with his character, Kainen says his favorite part is “the inspiration you provide to younger generations or little kids, and it’s a great feeling.”
Other than special events and activities presented by the college, he also gets to play Squall in unique opportunities, such as meeting potential students at football games, presenting awards to drivers at the Virginia Motor Speedway, and throwing the first pitch at a Richmond Flying Squirrels baseball game.
Along with his playing mascot taking him to different places in the area, Kainen is also an A/B student in the Arts and Sciences transfer degree program.
“[After] I get my general arts out of the way, I plan to transfer to Virginia Tech and go into the area of music production,” he talks about his future goals.
With his degrees, he plans to become an independent producer/musician. Kainen’s passion for music stems from his participation in school. “In my high school years, I did all the little music classes. I started the band back in middle school, and then I started choir back in my sophomore year,” he reminisces of his musical experiences.
The college experience was made easier as well with the scholarship he received for this school year. Kainen was one of just 47 college students in Virginia who earned the scholarship from The GReat Aspirations Scholarship Program (GRASP). The GRASP College Success program gave out over $120,000 to deserving students.
“The scholarship is a little help for me to get to my goals,” he says. “For the scholarship I had to apply, write a letter to a state delegate or senator, thanking him for the opportunity to earn this financial [aid] to make my goals of becoming an independent singer possible.”
As for RCC, Kainen has nothing but praise to speak of for the college. Summarizing his experience, he says, “I think it’s been a blast. Being able to take all these interesting classes, learn different perspectives or aspects that will help me in my future life. You also get to meet good people, good friends, and have all these wonderful activities and events or conferences that you get to take part in.”
As for community college over a four-year university, he says, “I like this experience because I feel it gives off a more communal environment. It’s similar; it’s less stressful in my opinion.”
For anyone about to join the college community, he suggests one’s accomplishment is in “your mindset, how you choose to adapt, how you choose to get your own goals accomplished.”
He continues that “you paid the money to go here, so you might as well take it the whole way and don’t slack.”
Along with inspiring children as Squall the Seagull, Kainen advises up and coming students, “Going through the college experience is a new chapter for every student who plans to get a higher education … don’t give up, remember why you’re doing this.”
After all his hard work to get where he’s at, he proudly talks of his time at RCC, saying, “I love it, and I’m very glad I started to take part in it.” — Ashley Wood