By any measure, the first day of high school is a daunting, nerve-wracking experience.
In addition to learning a new, larger building, incoming freshmen typically have to blend with new classmates from other middle schools, not to mention contend with sophomores, juniors and seniors.
Hall High School’s Link Crew program is designed to take at least some of the mystery and anxiety out of the process for the new students, while also serving as a growth experience for upperclassmen.
On Monday, some 100 upperclassmen volunteers took part in games, tours and exercises with about 370 freshmen during what should have been the last day of summer vacation.
The idea, according to event co-coordinator Christina Hunter Tysh, a math teacher at Hall, is that each freshman will know 10 new people by the end of the day. If high school were a restaurant, this would be considered a “soft opening.”
“This gives them a chance to meet their classmates and so they don’t think the seniors will pick on them,” Tysh said. “They’re guaranteed to know people.”
The Link Crew is a nationwide program now in its third year at Hall, which means that several of the junior mentors were a part of the first freshman class to take part in the program.
Junior Andrew Zinzarella, a Link Crew member this year, said that he got a lot out of the experience when he was an incoming freshman.
“I didn’t have many friends, and I met a lot of my friends in the Link Crew group,” he said. “I talked to [the upperclassmen mentors] every day, and they introduced me to juniors and seniors.”
Freshman Ali Myers, who was seen playing a game to help learn her group members’ names, said that she found the program helpful.
“It’s more comfortable knowing you aren’t the only one starting out as a freshman,” she said.
The day first started with everyone gathering in the gymnasium and playing games to break the ice. Afterward, the students were broken out into smaller groups for activities and tours.
“It’s a party,” Tysh said.
But there is also more to it since the Link Crew members sign up to check in on their freshman charges for the entire year. More contact with upperclassmen means less stress, bullying and hazing, Tysh said.
This year, Tysh and McHugh had to turn away about 100 upperclassmen who wanted to take part in the program.
"It's a pretty elite group," Tysh said of the ones who took part in the program. Tysh noted that they had to give up four days of their summer break to be a part of the LinK Crew.
Just about the only glitch - if that’s the right word - that occurred during the day was the Link Crew members’ attire: red shirts that were more fitting for cross-town rival Conard than at blue-through-and-through Hall.But McHugh had an answer for that: the theme was “Keep Calm and Call Link Crew.” The Keep Calm theme is traditionally red.