Benji the college mascot donning a face mask

Benji the Bengal Encourages Students to Wear Their Masks


When Shantell Reid, ’06, ’10, learned that Buffalo State College’s Student Affairs Office needed a mask for the college’s mascot, Benji the Bengal, who would be featured in a safety video, she raised her hand and got to work.

Reid, a graduate of the fashion and textile technology (FTT) undergraduate program and the creative studies graduate program, now serves as a provost fellow in the FTT Department, where she teaches two classes a semester. Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, she has created more than 200 face masks for friends and family, including her 2-year-old nieces.

“I have a whole sewing room set up at home,” she said. “I’ve sewn so many masks, I figured I could make another one, only bigger and a little more flexible.”

Timothy Gordon, vice president for student affairs, said his office wanted to feature Benji wearing a mask as a gentle reminder to students to do the same. He sent the mascot costume’s measurements to Reid and his vision for how the mask would look.

Mask for the mascot

Mask by Shantell Reid, ’06, ’10

Reid produced two versions for the iconic tiger. One is solid black. The other is black, trimmed in a printed orange, black, and white fabric. Both masks sport orange-and-white lettering that says “Bengals Wear Their Mask.”

The video will be shared with faculty, staff, and students via social media and posted on the college’s YouTube channel.

“We hope it will serve as an inspiration to everyone to stay diligent about safety precautions when the Bengal community carefully returns for a new semester of learning,” Gordon said.

When students, faculty, and staff return to campus this month, they will be required to wear face coverings or masks in nearly every setting. The college is providing two masks for each student, faculty, and staff member to wear during the year.

Reid’s mask-making efforts don’t stop with Benji. She plans to have students in her Industrial Apparel Assembly course make masks this fall for local schoolchildren. Because K–12 children will also be required to wear facial coverings while indoors, Reid decided to donate the masks to a local elementary school.

When she taught a similar course at a different college, her students created pajamas they donated to Oishei Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.

“We thought about who would be wearing them,” Reid said, “and my students made the pajamas in fun designs and really soft fabric.”

Likewise, she said, students this fall who are now all too familiar with the necessity of face coverings as protection against the coronavirus “will completely be on board with making masks that children will want to wear.”