Link Crew, the national orientation and mentoring program, is in its sixth year at West Hartford’s Hall High School and its second year at Conard High School.
By Ronni Newton
The first day of high school can be a scary occasion for an incoming freshman. We’ve all heard those stories about seniors giving wide-eyed freshmen the wrong directions to a classroom, or worse.
On Aug. 28, two days before the first day of school in West Hartford, 79 junior and senior “Link Leaders,” under the guidance of three energetic volunteer teachers, greeted this year’s 366 freshmen at Hall High School and too part in activities to ensure that the new students would not be walking around with a “deer in the headlights” look when they reported for classes on Wednesday morning.
“Juniors and seniors go through an extensive application and interview process,’ Hall math teacher and link crew coordinator Christina Hunter said in an email. The Link Leaders are chosen in the spring, and must commit to 10 hours of training in August, as well as the orientation program held on Aug. 28 and 29. Following the national Link Crew model, the leaders learn how make the freshmen feel comfortable starting high school, and also gain valuable leadership skills themselves as well as the satisfaction of giving back to to the school.
Hunter said that the first day of Link Crew at Hall began with a pep rally. “It’s a day about connections and friendships and advice, not rules and regulations and schedules,” she said.
Following some ice-breakers in the gym, the Link Leaders in their bright pink t-shirts – two leaders to approximately 10 freshmen – broke up into groups for team-building exercises. The exercises ranged from learning names, to leaders sharing personal struggles and how they were overcome, Hunter said.
Just before the first day’s session ended at noon, the teams took a “spirited” tour of the Hall campus, dressed in crazy costumes based on a theme chosen by the leaders. “This year we had some Olympic teams and motorcycle gangs roaming the halls!” Hunter said.
On the second day, the incoming students attended academic orientation where they followed their schedules, found their classrooms, and met their teachers. The faculty prepared a barbecue, and there was a Club and Activities Fair to introduce the new students to the myriad clubs and other organizations at Hall. Some students signed up right away.
The Link Leaders were stationed throughout the building, giving directions and helping find and open lockers.
“We really try to encourage getting involved in the school community early, not just as a participant but as a spectator, too,” Hunter said.
Link Crew has been such a success at Hall that Conard High School implemented it as well. Conard’s program kicked off its second year on Aug. 26, 2016.
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