Last Thursday marked the first day of classes for Merrill Area Public Schools. While students and teachers from around the district geared up for their routines in embarking on another year of education, a rather special routine was also resuming at Merrill High School.
When the clock struck 8 a.m., the 248-member freshman class of 2020 gathered at the MHS Field House for the first day of their high school experience.
To help that first day go just a bit smoother, they were joined by nearly 50 MHS junior and senior leaders as part of the Link Crew program.
Owned by the Boomerang Project: “You get back what you give,” the Link Crew program is described as: “A high school transition program that welcomes freshmen and makes them feel comfortable throughout the first year of their high school experience.
“Built on the belief that students can help students succeed, Boomerang Project’s proven high school transition program trains mentors from your junior and senior classes to be Link Crew Leaders. As positive role models, Link Crew Leaders are mentors and student leaders who guide the freshmen to discover what it takes to be successful during the transition to high school and help facilitate freshman success.”
“More and more studies show that if students have a positive experience their first year in high school, their chance for success increases dramatically. Link Crew provides the structure for freshmen to receive support and guidance from juniors and seniors who have been through the challenges that high school poses, and understand that the transition to a larger school can sometimes be overwhelming.”
The program is ongoing for the entire freshman year of students and consists of four elements; high school orientation, academic follow-ups, social follow-ups and leader initiated contacts.”
Throughout the first year, Link leaders consistently interact with freshman students with the ultimate goal of assuring a smooth transition to the high school experience.
The MHS Link Crew program is entering into its 14th year. MHS teacher Amy Heimerl has been the MHS Link Crew Program coordinator since 2004 and a Boomerang Project coach since 2007. There are currently 30 Link Crew Coaches throughout the United States and Canada.
“Being a coach for the Boomerang Project has allowed me the opportunity to travel around the US and Canada training others to be Link Crew Coordinators in their schools,” she explains. “Link Crew is based on principles that have become a way of life for me. My life changed when I became involved with Link Crew and I want others to have a chance to be a part of something that is so positively powerful.
“Link Crew has the ability to change the culture of a school, and I love being a part of that,” she adds. “I also know that students respond best to other students. Freshmen are more likely to be positively influenced by their peers than adults. Link Crew is a student leadership program. Our calling is to train upperclassmen to ‘know the way, show the way and go the way,’ so that others in our school – especially freshmen – will do the same.
“We know that transition is difficult at any age and the better we can equip our freshmen during this transition to high school, the better they will be; the better our school will be; the better our community will be and the better our world will be. I love being a part of a revolution that has the potential to change the world.”
Joining Heimerl as coordinators are fellow teachers Stephanie Nelson, Bethany Martinovici and Andy Plisch.
The process for students to become volunteer Link Crew leaders begins with an application. No high school credit is given for student leaders, however leadership skills gained from the experience can prove quite valuable in terms of professional experience, as Nelson explains.
“This year’s Link Crew experience actually began for our leaders last Sunday, four days before classes began. They came in for 10 hours of training, strictly on a volunteer basis. I feel that alone shows how dedicated our leaders are to this program and helping our new incoming freshman class adjust to high school.”
In speaking with Link Crew leader senior Trevor Stadler, it would seem as if Mrs. Nelson’s perception is quite accurate.
“I remember being a freshman and it was a bit scary you know, coming into high school for the first time,” Stadler explains. “Link crew really helped make it easier and I decided I wanted to be a part of helping future freshmen who may feel the same way. I became an A-team Link Crew member as a sophomore and then again as a junior. Today (Thursday, Sept. 1) it has been a lot of fun! They (freshmen students) seem to be having a lot of fun and that’s what it’s all about. I see it as my way of giving back and helping out.”
Following an assembly in the MHS Field House last Thursday, members of the incoming freshman class broke into small groups with Link Crew leaders for various orientation and familiarization exercises, culminating with a dance in the afternoon and a final assembly to end the day.
To learn more about Link Crew, visit http://www.Boomerangproject.com.