Human interaction is at times easier said than done for Tabor College senior Alex Eurit. He sometimes finds himself both shy and at a loss for words while around people he doesn’t know or doesn’t have much in common with.
However, if you were to peer in behind the mask of the Tabor Bluejay at any of the many sporting events this year, you will find Eurit there supporting the team and interacting with the crowd.
“My friend calls me an ambivert,” Eurit said. “I am both introverted and extroverted.”
His parents always knew there was something different about him, Eurit said. They had him tested when he was around age 12 and discovered that he has Asperger syndrome.
“I just don’t know how to talk to people sometimes,” Eurit said. “I think that if I just keep to myself it would be easier.”
Eurit said he can’t always translate a feeling into words.
Social interaction and nonverbal communication for people with Asperger syndrome is often characterized as significantly difficult or complicated.
“Aspergers is a high-functioning form of autism spectrum disorders,” Eurit said. “Not to say that I don’t have low functioning moments, but I function relatively well.”
He said communication was harder for him when he was younger but as he has gotten older he has found ways to express himself in a positive manner.
Eurit has always taken sanctuary in performance art. In high school, he was in the Marion Singers. He also started playing piano at a young age and has a unique way of thinking about music.
“Music is God calling out to us,” he said. “The style we gravitate to is how we are wired. Each responds to our own sound. Once we hear that sound, we respond with our own sound; piano is my sound.”
Eurit has also always had a passion for acting. He sometimes puts on black and white makeup and a black and white striped shirt with a friend and mimes in public.
“When I am acting and when I am in character, it is easier for me to interact,” he said. “I behave different when I am myself.”
Becoming the official Tabor mascot was a milestone for him. In fact, he didn’t even have to try out for the position. Tabor head cheerleading coach Tony Morris offered it to him after Eurit performed a version of a popular YouTube video — Oppa Gangnam Style — song and dance at a Tabor talent show last year.
“He had fun with the dance,” Morris said. “He really sold it.”
Morris had watched Eurit in different settings throughout the year and thought he would be a good addition to the cheer squad. Morris liked Eurit’s whole personality and admired his enthusiasm.
Colton Olsen, Eurit’s friend and cheer squad cohort, said Eurit memorized all the words to the song, in Korean.
“It was really impressive,” Olsen said. “He dressed up like the guy in the video, did the words and dance and everything.”
Olsen went to high school in Marion with Eurit too. He said that Eurit was always a little shy but since has become more open.
Over the summer Eurit and Olsen, along with Morris and the rest of the cheer squad attended a cheer camp in Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
While the rest of the cheer squad attended cheer workshops, Eurit worked with mascot trainers who taught him and others how to create personalities for their respective school mascots.
Eurit learned that mascots never talk because animals don’t talk, he said, so to develop the character he had to think of a way for the Blue Jay to express its personality by only using body language.
“I was in forensics and plays in high school so it was easy for me to develop a character,” Eurit said. “I thought to myself, he should be a very happy individual because the beak is always smiling, and there should be a rhythm to everything he does, he likes to strut his stuff.”
One of the character traits he developed was a distinctive rhythmic walk.
“There is a uniqueness about him,” Olsen said. “He is good at thinking on his feet and making up things on the spot.”
The Bluejay helped Eurit by giving him a creative outlet to interact with a crowd, Morris said.
Eurit was also the first mascot in the history of Tabor athletics to attend the cheer workshop. As a result, the personality he helps create will be a model for future individuals playing the part of the Tabor Blue Jay.