Elkhorn freshmen participate in school's first Link Crew experience

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Andrea Anderson
Thursday, August 21, 2014

ELKHORN—LMFAO's “Party Rock Anthem” blared in the Elkhorn Area High School gym as one upperclassman pretended to lasso her fellow classmate and pull them toward her.

To the girl's left, incoming freshmen filed into the gym while other upperclassmen cheered on the new students.

The freshmen's nervous smiles, gleaming eyes and swaying to the quintessential high school dance music signaled mixed emotions as they filled the bleachers.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for each of you to embark into high school,” Principal Chris Trottier told the Class of 2018. “Everything we're doing here is to ensure your success, to make sure you take advantage of this opportunity.”

Wednesday marked the first Link Crew experience for the high school.

Link Crew is a national program that couples incoming freshmen with juniors and seniors. The year-long program starts with a welcome gathering before school begins.

Upperclassmen are Link Crew leaders and serve as role models and mentors to the freshmen.

The leaders will meet with the freshmen in their homeroom at least once a month.

Each of about 32 leaders was assigned to an average of six freshmen based on homeroom assignments.

In the monthly meetings, the juniors and seniors will talk to the freshmen about character building, time management and peer pressure.

During spirit week or finals, the leaders will disseminate information and encourage the freshmen to participate.

On Wednesday, the freshmen met their Link Crew leaders for the first time.

The students came together for about two hours in the gym where the leaders, wearing bright yellow T-shirts, were sprinkled among the 250 freshmen.

After the gym gathering, the students dispersed to their homeroom groups.

In Room 214, seven freshmen initially sat shyly on the floor with Link Crew Leader Dakota Hummel, a junior.

“It's not as scary as it seems,” she told them before sharing about herself. Hummel said she got lost the first day of high school and had to ask an older student for help.

“I think it's important you guys have this program,” Hummel said. “It helps you to get to know people.”

Audra Rothwell and Kerry Brockman, co-facilitators for the program, trained the leaders Monday and Tuesday for their roles. The two said Link Crew is an important educational program.

“This is the perfect opportunity and the perfect program to help everyone fit in and recognize you have a homeroom full of people, plus your link leaders, plus your facilitators, plus everyone else in the school you can turn to,” Rothwell said. “The more options we can give them and the more opportunities to include them, the less likely they are to give in and miss out and face the ramifications of that.”

The hope is for the leaders to form lasting relationships with the freshman so if the freshmen are struggling or have a question, they have someone other than a teacher to consult. Student leaders might share how they handled similar situations.

“I think it's good for the upperclassmen--the juniors and seniors--to take that leadership role and be good role models for those kids coming in,” Brockman said.

Hummel told her students she's there to help them as best as she can, regardless of the situation.

During the hour and a half in the classroom, and in the time in the gym, the group participated in exercises about communication, balance and staying true to yourself regardless of what your friends may think or do.

At one point, the group of seven juggled several balls.

“As we added more and more, it got faster and harder, and it's kind of like that in high school with everything you're doing,” Hummel told her students, who by then were laughing and cheering on each other.

“I had butterflies this morning,” freshman Taylor Windler said.

Now, she's comfortable with the school and is excited for the first day.

Fellow freshman Nick Zerbach agreed and was glad he attended.

“It was fun,” he said. “It showed how we all have teamwork.”

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