There is a new face — and flippers — on the campus of The College of the Florida Keys: Shel the Tuga.

The college’s new mascot, the Tugas, is an abbreviation of “tortugas,” the Spanish word for turtle. The fictional sea turtle mascot sports CFK’s colors: an ocean blue body with lightning bolts and a sunset-orange shell. The college’s marketing team worked with local graphic designer Seth Mularz to create the design. 

The introduction of the Tuga comes as athletics return to campus after a 45-year hiatus. Women’s and men’s swim teams made their competition debut earlier this semester at both in-person and virtual swim meets. In 2019, the College joined the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), a requirement to operate and compete in sanctioned athletic events.

The Tuga will be the face of CFK athletics and, officials hope, a source of collegiate spirit for students, alumni, employees and the Keys community. 

“A strong and swift ocean navigator, the Tuga represents the culture and values at CFK,” states a college press release. “Among them is the widely shared passion for the ocean and environment. CFK’s marine-oriented programs, including a recently added bachelor’s degree in marine resource management, attract students from all over the world to study for various marine-related careers in and on the waters of the Keys. 

The College of the Florida Keys hosted a recent Tuga-Palooza party to celebrate the school’s new mascot, Shel the Tuga. CONTRIBUTED

Like sea turtles in the wild, CFK students and alumni play fundamental roles in the health of coral reefs, seagrass and other ecosystems.  

While nearly all species of sea turtles are endangered, they have existed on Earth for more than 100 million years. The strength and resiliency of the Tugas’ real-life counterparts reflect the spirit and tenacity of the student body of the small island college. 

The development of the mascot was based on college-wide input, including rounds of nominations, voting and focus groups. Previously, the college’s mascot was the Wrecker, which had not been embraced for many years. The Tugas’ Spanish-inspired name is symbolic of the Keys’ Hispanic heritage and the college’s diverse student body. Shel, the name of the mascot character, is a nod to the famous poet and Key West resident Shel Silverstein.

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