Most people can remember the awkwardness of being a high school freshman starting over as the low person on the totem pole at a new school and being not quite sure where to go and how to get there among other issues.
A new pilot program at Whitley County High School is hoping to ease that transition for a group of incoming high school freshmen this year by grouping them with selected juniors and seniors, who will serve as mentors to the new freshmen.
WCHS teacher Tracy Croley, who is one of the faculty members spearheading the program, said that if it is successful, then the school would like to eventually expand it for all freshmen in the future.
“I think it is a component that will offer greater success to the freshmen students in support socially and academic support,” Croley noted. “For the upperclassmen students, who are trained as Link Leaders, they will be gaining leadership roles in the school. They will earn leadership hours, which are components that are necessary in college scholarship applications. It will open the door for them to develop new skills and get involved in community service.”
Link Crew is a high school transition program that is designed to welcome freshmen and makes them feel comfortable throughout the first year of their high school experience. It is a student-led leadership program of WCHS juniors and seniors, who have been trained as Link Leaders.
WCHS is one of seven high schools in Kentucky that are implementing the Link Crew pilot program.
“I believe in the program so much for two reasons,” Croley said. “As an educator, I see its value. As a parent with younger children, who will come to the high school, I see it as a huge benefit.”
Thursday morning, incoming freshmen, who are taking part in the program, met their student leaders for the first time during an orientation program.
There are two student leaders for every 14 freshman. The student leaders, include a diverse group of students so that nearly all the freshman will have someone that they can relate to.
“The group leaders are engaging them in different activities that build comfort and trust in the relationship,” Croley noted. “There are things students can learn from each other that they may not be comfortable asking an adult. There are also things students can share with a student that we as an adult can overlook or take for granted that the student knows that.”
In addition to trust building exercises, the Link Leaders also helped the new freshmen Thursday with some more practical matters, such as a tour of the new school, and learning how to open the combination locks on their new lockers.
The student leaders will engage the freshmen all year, and will teach nine mini lessons during the school year.
“The student leaders are available for tutoring. They are available for any kind of encouragement that we see necessary,” Croley said. “The Link Crew philosophy is students helping students succeed.”