Link Crew, the national orientation and mentoring program, is in its seventh year at West Hartford’s Hall High School and its third 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.
Current students and administrators alike at West Hartford’s high schools have been working in tandem for several years so that new students feel welcomed rather than fearful and avoid that “deer in the headlights” look on the first day of classes.
On Monday, Aug. 28, at Hall High School, 80 juniors and seniors clad in bright yellow shirts greeted a group of more than 420 freshmen and transfer students to engage in ice-breakers and bonding activities in both large and small groups in order to make the transition to Hall a whole lot easier.
Hall math teacher Christina Hunter, along with science teachers Nora McHugh and Anthony Wasley, selected and trained the juniors and seniors using the guidelines of the national Link Crew leadership and mentoring training program. The application process is thorough, and the link leaders undergo 10 hours of training – while they are on summer vacation – before participating in the two-day orientation with the new students.
Included in the program are small group school tours with whimsical themes chosen by the link leaders who often bring along some appropriate accessories to match their chosen theme. Crews of pirates, dinosaurs, and Harry Potter characters could be seen walking the halls.
Hunter said that there is roughly one link leader for every five students this year.
“Orientation is just the beginning of a year long support and mentoring program,” Hunter said. “Academic and social activities are planned to get new students involved and help them be successful in high school.”
Link crew helps set the tone for a fun and successful year, Hunter said, and it doesn’t stop after the first week.
The upperclassmen remain mentors for the freshmen and during the year will be involved in the advisory program, freshman seminar, and other activities. On Friday, Sept. 8, freshmen and their Link Leaders will meet for the Freshman Tailgate where they eat and play games before attending the first home football game together.
After seeing how successful Link Crew was at Hall, Conard High School implemented it as well, and that program, which follows a similar format, is now in its third year.
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