Donescu leaves last mark at WA with Ghost murals


Kate Kelly

Julia Donescu paints a design of the new Ghost mascot on the wall of the main gym.

Srivas Arun and Sophia Keang

A previous version of this article was published on Dec. 14, 2022. This version has been edited to include more recent events pertaining to the topic.

As she walked through the halls, her peers and teachers congratulated her. After months of meetings with the administration and tireless nights of redrawing the new ghost, senior Julia Donescu’s work on her unique mascot submission had finally paid off.

Earlier this year, WA officially announced the new school mascot, changing “the Grey Ghost” to simply “the Ghost”. Out of the 40 WPS student mascot submissions, senior Julia Donescu’s design was ultimately chosen to be WA’s official mascot.

While many students and faculty were not pleased with changing the new mascot due to tradition and the time the process took, many have begun to embrace it. For the few weeks after the mascot change, Donescu became a household name to student clubs and sports teams around the school. Over the school year, she has made numerous variations of the new mascot for WA organizations like the school’s Mock Trial Club, WA Choir, the WA Ghostwriter, and the Westford Youth Lacrosse Program.

“Myself and the Mock Trial team are extremely appreciative of Julia for creating our logo,” Mock Trial Club co-captain and junior Nikhil Singh said. “The fact that clubs across Westford Academy now have access to an incredibly talented artist like my friend, Julia, to create custom logos for their clubs is valuable. The versatility of the logo is going to be a huge asset for the future of WA.”

While not all student organizations have reached out to Donescu to create a design for them, many have taken Donescu’s design and created their own. Organizations such as the Gender and Sexuality Alliance have already incorporated the new mascot into their merchandise.

Donescu’s initial thoughts on changing the school mascot were indifferent. She wasn’t usually a student who would express her opinion on controversial topics but decided to submit a mascot design anyway because she thought it would be a fun project to do in her free time while also contributing to the Westford community.

“Originally, I didn’t have a huge opinion on changing the mascot,” Donescu said. “I knew it was happening but I wasn’t really involved in it. But I realized that this year would be my final year at WA and wanted to leave my mark somehow.”

Many students and faculty were worried that changing the mascot would eliminate the “intimidating” factor of the mascot with its crossed arms and ambiguous facial expression. Thus, Donescu took this concern into consideration when designing the new mascot. Keeping the element of the ghost, she wanted to ensure that the school’s identity remained “intimidating”.

“I know that I didn’t want the new mascot to look like the old one,” Donescu said. “I thought that if we were going to change the mascot, we might change it as much as we can but stay true to Westford’s culture and identity… Though, for our sports teams, I also wanted to keep the ghost intimidating.”

Other factors Donescu wanted to keep were the school colors—white, grey, and maroon. She didn’t want the mascot to lose too many “traditional” elements that contributed to the culture of WA and Westford as a whole.

The design process started back in April 2022. Donescu’s involvement in this project included attending meetings with administration and endless hours revising to perfect the mascot. This process continued into the summer as well. With college applications and spending time with friends and family, fortunately for Donescu, she did not find the mascot project too strenuous, but found the outcome rewarding.

“Even though it was a lot of work, it was all worth it in the end,” Donescu said. “I’ll know I’ve made an impact at WA.”

Donescu mentioned that the administration had a tremendous impact on the new design. However, WA Principal James Antonelli is grateful that he had the opportunity to work with a student like Donescu during a tough process.

“Julia is a very talented artist,” Antonelli said. “She was open to any suggestions… Whenever I would email Julia, she would see me the next day, and she would accept the feedback and she agreed with the feedback and made changes. I am extremely proud of Julia, and I am sure she received both negative and positive input. The negative input can really take a toll on someone, however, Julia has stood strong and is proud of her work. I admire Julia and appreciate her perseverance.”

With the new adjustment for everyone in the WA community, Donescu also received both positive and negative feedback from students and faculty. She had heard the mascot compared to a tissue, a bat, and even a curtain.

“Because a lot of people didn’t realize I drew the mascot, people often talked about my design in close proximity to me,” Donescu said. “Still, I kept thick skin throughout this whole process because I knew that there would always be people who didn’t like my design. I just had to focus on the good.”

This fall, Donescu will be attending Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) for a degree in Public Health Services. She chose MCPHS for its excellent physician assistant program.

Donescu has always had an interest in healthcare due to her frequent visits to the hospital as a child due to multiple ailments including appendicitis. She also has fond memories of rushing stuffed animals to imaginary hospitals as a child with her older sister.

“[My interest in the medical field] has always been part of me. I can’t think of a specific point in time when it started,” Donescu said.

For her senior capstone project, as her last impact on WA, Donescu took on the ambitious task of painting her new Ghost design in the gymnasium and other places around the school where the previous logo once was. Donescu knew that much of WA’s community had a connection to the old mascot and was determined to inspire the same feelings within students with the new mascot.

Unlike her initial efforts to incorporate the new Ghost into the murals of the school, Donescu’s mural in the main gym has had a largely positive reception. According to Donescu, painting the Ghost in the gym has felt like a redemption from the backlash she received when she originally began her project.

“I know that a lot of people really liked [the old mascot]. So, in my head, I was like, okay, so if I put a cooler version of mine on this wall, like in the same spot, people will like it more,” Donescu said.