School of the Month: AHS Link Crew pairs upperclassmen with freshmen

Published 7:33 am Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The first day of school for a high school freshman can be a pretty daunting experience — endless hallways and stairways, tough class assignments, intimidating older students.

Austin High School is working to make that leap into the last four years less scary with a new transition program: Link Crew.

Seventy-four juniors and seniors went through training Monday and Tuesday to become Link Crew leaders, who serve as mentors to incoming freshmen. For every eight freshmen there will be two leaders who will accompany them to orientation Thursday and check in on them for the remainder of the school year.

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“It’s all about making that expectation of high school not so scary,” assistant principal Katie Baskin said. “We don’t want that first day of school to be their first time in the building.

“It really sets the tone for the year,” she said of orientation, which includes introductions, tours and team-building exercises.

Baskin and Kirsten Lindbloom, Chemical Health Awareness Initiative (CHAI) coordinator, are leading Link Crew with the assistance of AHS teachers Michelle Boelter and Angela Klein.

Link Crew girls

Meredith Molhusen, Jennifer Soiney, Molly Bissen, Chelsey Otto, Judie Bluhm, Diana Ramirez, Annamarie Hernandez, Alex Larson, Alyssa Ofstedahl, Katlyn Harder, Selena Hataye, Karem Salas, Nina Carney, Jessica Edgar, Felicia Finley, Megan Yerhot, Kimberly Trembley, Averi Splinter, Sara Salas, Tamika Hutson, Ashley Crump Katlyn Orcutt, Robin Arjes, Eryn Adams, McKenzie Anderson, Kelsey Flemming, Sydney Hataye, Tracy Hauschildt, Kari Johnson, Danielle LeDoux, Megan Lipari, Emily Majerus, Amanda Mattick, Lauren Schwab, Kara Slowinski, Sabrina Snater, Julia Wagner, Allie Neuman, Emily Weiss, Kelsey Stough, Savannah Heyer and Samantha Johnson

Link Crew guys

Alex Earl, Fernando Garcia, Jay Ettinger, Corey Gerdts, Abel Salazar, Max Coffey, Sam Gerstner, Jonathan Rice, James Kestner, Gunnar Peters, Michael Lindahl, Dylan Goldberg, Jordan Lysne, Josh Hart, David Schroeder, Travis Mattson, Ben Bachmeier, Tyler Bentzin, Tucker Besel, Nathan Claspell, Joe Diggins, Aaron Dooley, Tim Erikson, Chris Folken, Ryan Fullerton, Connor Gunderson, Jacob Hines, Jordan Klein, Phillip Riley, Danny Salazar, Tyler Slack, Rob Wahlert, Tyler Wilson, Miles Edwards and Zach Rausch

Link Crew is a national program under The Boomerang Project, a company dedicated to reaching students and educators through speakers, training and other resources. Three other districts in the Big Nine Conference participate in Link Crew.

“It’s not an uncommon program,” Baskin said; however, it is expensive to start.

Lindbloom’s position and Link Crew are made possible by a three-year U.S. Department of Education grant — which includes $230,000 the first year; $205,000 the second; and $210,000 the last year — for the high school’s CHAI program. AHS is starting its second year of the grant.

Baskin said 120 students applied to be Link Crew leaders, which were chosen to create diversity and a variety of academic and athletic interests to ensure representation “from every lunch table,” Baskin said.

“Every one of them who applied could do a good job,” she said.

The leaders’ duties will include “academic follow-ups, some social things, inviting them to events,” Baskin explained. Leaders will meet twice a month with their crews throughout the year. For example, they may meet with their crews before finals and give them tips about studying, or tell them what to expect at the homecoming dance.

Leaders were assigned their crews Tuesday, and instructed to call them and invite them to the orientation Thursday.

Link Crew leader and senior Connor Gunderson said he started as a freshman at AHS after going to the Catholic school, which is much smaller.

“It was pretty rough,” said Gunderson, 17. “I wanted to get these freshmen on the right track right away. I want to communicate to these kids they have to take it seriously.”

Leader Ashley Crump, also a senior, said she wants freshmen to know that starting high school is “not that big of a deal.”

“I’ve been a ninth-grader,” she said. “It’s OK to be yourself. They find where they belong. It’s a new building. You’ll find friends, it just takes a little bit.”

Freshmen orientation will be from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday in Packer Gym. All incoming freshmen are expected to attend.