Campus-wide program connects freshmen with upperclassmen in Higley Unified School District

Williams Field Senior and Link Crew leader Monique Horton is one of many volunteers in the Link Crew program. (Photo Courtesy of Quintin Bingham)

The transition from middle school to high school can be daunting for students as they try to juggle new responsibilities and pressures, but the Higley Unified School District’s Link Crew program at Williams Field and Higley high schools in Gilbert helps alleviate the stress.

Student leaders run the campus-wide initiative the Link Crew aiming to network freshmen with junior and senior mentors. Meetings are throughout the year where topics like study habits, homework and school life are discussed.

“For the freshmen, it’s about helping them feel welcome and connected,” Williams Field High School Principal Steve Tannenbaum said. “At the same time, we are putting a process in place for the links to have an opportunity for leadership roles.”

Higley Principal Nancy Diab-Scott said Link Crew gives incoming freshmen “a sense of belonging.”

“And it’s not just that. It’s about building leadership with our juniors and seniors,” she said. “It’s about creating mentors for our freshmen to have a smooth transition from middle school to high school. Every month the mentors check in on their freshmen to see if they have any questions or need help.”

Group leaders meet in advance to brainstorm for future meetings and work to come up with new and engaging activities to connect with their freshmen mentees, according to Heidi Zellner, Williams Field High School Link Crew director and science teacher.

“Their whole goal is to mentor our freshmen students, to create activities throughout the school year, to connect with them and make sure that they are finding their footing as they enter into high school,” Ms. Zellner said.

Williams Field Senior and Link Crew leader Monique Horton. (Photo Courtesy of Quintin Bingham)

Once a connection, a link, is made, the leader will periodically check in with their underclassmen to make sure they are adjusting well and to offer insight or connect them with resources if they are struggling.

“When I was a freshman I was so terrified. I didn’t have anyone to go to to tell me how to do high school. So when I got the application, I said, ‘Yes, absolutely I want to do this. I want to make a difference and be that person for a freshman,” Higley senior and Link Crew member Maddie Helland said.

One reason the program became successful is regularly set meetings, Zellner said. Having a set time for freshmen and leaders to see each other helps facilitate a time for freshmen to feel comfortable coming forward with questions and concerns.

Link Crew members — more than 100 at each high school — are selected based on teacher recommendations, grades, class behavior and leadership potential and skills.

Senior Monique Horton, a Williams Field Link Crew leader, said the application process — including interviews — was “long, but definitely worth it.”

“I decided to become a mentor because I wanted to connect with the freshmen and the underclassmen, as well,” Horton said. “I came to Williams Field not knowing one person and my group leader really helped me expand and make new friends, so I wanted to do the same.”

Editor’s Note: Quintin Bingham is a Public Relations Intern for the Higley Unified School District.

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