Starting something new is hard. This can be especially true with starting high school.
Many people think because Poynette is a small, close community, the transition from middle school to high school would be easy. However, there are many changes ninth grade students experience that may be difficult.
These changes can range from the time management skills needed to balance the increase in extracurricular opportunities that are now available to the new responsibility that comes with having open campus lunch privileges to the expectations of different teachers and so much more. So what do we do to make sure this transition is as easy as possible?
For nearly a decade, Poynette has been using the Link Crew program to help welcome all incoming students at the start of the school year and support these students throughout their first year as high schoolers. The Poynette Link Crew is co-facilitated by Dr. Leah Hover-Preiss and Mrs. Kait Heintz, with assistance from the high school guidance department.
Link Crew is a freshman orientation program used at high schools throughout the United States. The aim of Link Crew is to train upperclassmen to act as mentors and leaders, so that they can run the back-to-school orientation program for all students new to the high school.
This year, Poynette had 52 juniors and seniors apply to be Link Crew Leaders. This is about a third of the upperclassmen who willingly give up the last week of their summer vacation to participate in leadership training.
On the application, the upperclassmen often state they want to become Link Crew Leaders because they remember the questions and fears they had as a freshman and they want to help other students ease these concerns. Others state they remember how helpful their Link Crew Leaders were during their freshman year and want a way to do the same.
While being a Leader does look good on college applications and students get community service hours from participating, very few students even mention these as factors for applying. They have much loftier goals: helping to make sure every student at Poynette High School feels as if they belong to the Puma family.
The main component of the Link Crew program is the back-to-school orientation that takes place a couple of weeks before the start of the school year. The orientation includes large group ice-breakers and team building activities, small group sessions led by the Link Crew Leaders, and a tour of the high school.
For the past two year, an activities fair has been added to the schedule to ensure all freshman students know the opportunities for extracurricular participation available to them at the high school. Upperclassmen participants of each organization are on hand to give details about the club or sports and answer any questions the incoming students may have.
Ninth-grade students are amazed that the offerings range from Latin Club and Dungeons and Dragons to Ice Fishing Club and Hockey, with everything in between. The excitement during the activities fair is almost palpable!
Throughout the year, the goal of Link Crew at Poynette remains the same: to make sure that all students feel like they are a welcomed Puma who can be successful in all aspects of high school. Link Crew activities continue throughout the school year, including quarterly check-ins with Link Crew Leaders to discuss goals, school achievement, and any questions the freshmen still have.
While it seems obvious that the freshman students would benefit from the extra support provided by Link Crew, it can also be seen that the Leaders, adult advisors, and administration are also positively impacted by having the program at our school throughout the year.