MASSENA - There are countless high schools across America that partake in some sort of new student orientation during the first couple of days of school. Some upperclassmen at Massena Central High School though have taken two days out of the last couple of weeks of summer to participate in Link Crew training, readying themselves to work with incoming students to make the transition as comfortable as possible.
State Senator Patty Ritchie stopped by the school Tuesday morning to check out the students in action and also announce $2,500 in new funding to assist in expanding the districts volunteer student mentoring program.
I actually am here today because (school guidance counselor) Erin (Covell) was at a Massena Matters meeting explaining this program and up until this past year, I didnt represent any of the area that is covered by Massena High School. In January I picked up the town of Louisville so now I partially represent the school here, Ms. Ritchie said.
So I was invited to this meeting and Jim (Reagen) went on my behalf and he came back and told me how Erin described this program and all of the wonderful things that youre doing. I have to admit, I instantly was impressed. I got the opportunity to work closely with your new superintendent because he was from Oswego and I welcome him. This program, when he came back, even though I didnt even get to hear from (Ms. Covell) directly, I just couldnt believe that all of you would give your time to come here and go through all this program to help other students when theyre coming in as freshman, she said.
I graduated from Heuvelton in a class of 55 students and even for me, when all of the students were in one building which went from the elementary side to the high school side; after all this time I can remember being so afraid going over on the first couple days that if I had someone like you who actually I knew beforehand and was comfortable with, if I had some issues or there were questions, I could go to somebody. Even for me it would have made such a huge difference, Ms. Ritchie added.
She also emphasized that so many kids lives would be so much better if there were people like yourselves that were there for them.
After having such a great success with Link Crew last school year, Principal Patrick J. Farrand was sure he wanted the program back this year.
Last year was pretty successful. We had about 63 Link Crew leaders and you want about one to two Link Crew leaders per 10 (new) students. So we do our best to make sure that youre getting a good sampling because the idea is that these people are going to be mentors as upperclassmen for the incoming freshmen, Mr. Farrand said.
They teach them, they explain to them what not to do here at school, whats expected here at school, the lay of the land, expectations. They kind of give them some insight into how to survive high school so to speak. Its better than the traditional orientation where youre just being issued a schedule at a table and youre allowed to walk around and find your rooms and then figure out where your locker is and then, Good luck with the first day, he said.
All 65 Link Crew mentors sported red T-shirts on Tuesday and will be wearing them again on the first day of school. Mr. Farrand said this will enable new students to identify older students who can help them with problems they may have during the first few days.
The training, Mr. Farrand feels, has a dual positive effect, both for the younger and older students.
Something thats really important that people dont realize is that the kids who are leaders, theyre getting a lot of training in these two days to become natural leaders in their life. So theyre not so apt to follow the group. They make decisions for themselves. They become the icon of, Its ok to be different. Its ok to make your own decisions, you dont have to follow the group. Stand up. One of the big themes that they talked about here is that theres doers, theres watchers, and then theres the no shows. And you want to be a watcher or a doer, Mr. Farrand said.
When the leaders leave training on Wednesday they will receive a list of freshmen who they are assigned to and which other leader they are working with. Additionally, both leaders will be calling their freshmen next week to introduce themselves. So, when the freshmen arrive for orientation on Aug. 28 they will have already in a sense made a connection with an older student.
Along with Mr. Farrand and Ms. Covell, counselor Robert Jordan was mainly running Tuesdays activities.
This is basically a climate changer. Its meant to just change climate in the building from harassment and the bullying. Its not any more prevalent here than any other school, but its ever prevalent, Mr. Jordan said. This has been a great program to hit it head on. Weve tried everything under the sun at this point and we get some success with everything but this one has been the quickest and most extensive weve had so far.
The first day of school for Massena Central is September 5.