Program helps freshmen adjust

Published 7:42 am Thursday, September 2, 2010

Austin High School offered an orientation program earlier today that helps ninth-graders take command in their first year of high school.

The program is called Link Crew, a system used across the U.S. and Canada, which helps freshmen adjust to the new school environment by receiving advice from 11th and 12th-grade students who lead them in group activities. This is the second year the school has hosted the program.

“We have the upper classmen work as leaders, so they can share what they wish someone had told them as freshmen,” said Kristen Lindbloom, head coordinator of Link Crew.

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The new students participate in sharing their personal stories with one another and taking guided tours given by older students. In order to perform the events, the freshmen break into groups, or crews, of 10 to 12 that are lead by two to three older students.

In order to qualify to lead a freshmen group, the older students underwent a selection process and a two-day training session.

This year, 160 students applied or were nominated to be a crew leaders, and 61 were selected. The only application requirement for older students was that they were making enough academic progress that they would graduate on time with their class. According to Lindbloom, the applicant pool was narrowed down to bring about the most diverse group of crew leaders. She said the point of selecting for diversity helped accommodate the ninth graders so that every one of them would be guaranteed at least one leader they could strongly identify with.

After the selection process was completed, the older students had leadership training on Monday and Tuesday. Lindbloom said this was designed in order to help the older students be more effective in helping the new students.

“This is as much for the junior and seniors as it is for the freshmen,” Lindbloom said. “The older students get to learn leadership skills while helping the younger students put aside their anxiety.”

Lindbloom said that last year 79 percent of the freshman class participated in the program and it was very successful. She added that teachers commented to her about how more relaxed and confident the freshman class was after participating in the program. She said she hopes to continue the success and have 80 to 90 percent of the 9th grade class participate.

Lindbloom added that the program goes beyond today’s events. Crew leaders will assist ninth graders with any additional problems during the first day of school. On Sept. 10, the entire freshman class will be invited to participate in their first extracurricular activity at the Fifth Quarter party held at the school after the first home football game. Crew leaders will also perform a follow-up meeting with their orientation groups the first week of October and touch base each month after that.

The program is funded by the school’s district chemical health awareness initiative. The initiative is designed to provide programs and events to assist students as well as provide fun alternatives to risk behavior, such as drinking and drug use.

The orientation program occurred today from 8 a.m. to noon in the Austin High School.