Link Crew creates a safe space for freshmen
WED. | 08-03-22 | FEATURES
Transitioning from middle school to high school can be an uncomfortable experience for some people. Rose has a substantially larger population than most of the incoming freshmen's middle schools. This large pool of students makes it easy for students to feel left out, which no one enjoys. That's where Link Crew comes in.
Link Crew provides upperclassmen with the opportunity to mentor freshmen throughout the year to help with their transition from middle school to high school.
Rose teachers and Link Crew coordinators Randall Leach and Stephanie Noles have
Photo by Kemorah Ullah
been coordinating Link Crew for several years. Both Leach and Noles were intrigued by the positivity of the program and how valuable it is.
“You get to have fun and play, but then at the same time, you use the play to dive into deeper conversations, which will help the ninth graders transition into high school,” Leach said.
Although the positivity of Link Crew is what drew Leach and Noles in years ago, it is still a core trait of the Link Crew program today.
“We want to promote a school community and culture of positivity,” Noles said. “No matter what their niche is…we want them to feel like there is a [Link Crew] leader that understands them.”
Link Crew operates upon three key principles: go big, total support and yes, and…
“Go big means to present with energy and positivity and total support promotes a system where everyone knows that they always have someone,” Leach said. “Yes, and… is like [when] any negative thing comes your way, say yes this just happened and I accept it; now I’m going to move forward.”
Coordinating Link Crew is not just another activity that Leach and Noles do at Rose. They work very hard to give their Link Crew leaders the tools they need to help these freshmen. The program holds a special place in the hearts of both coordinators.
“No one wants to come to high school not knowing anybody or feel like they’re that invisible person, and when you have Link Crew leaders they’re seeing those kids,” Noles said. “The activities we do may seem cheesy, but they all have the purpose of making these students see that they have someone who is invested in them, even if it's only for 20 minutes.”
Leach values a diverse group of Link Crew leaders, so he does not require much other than being kind.
“We want a cross section of our school so that when incoming ninth graders come into the school, they will hopefully see somebody or connect with somebody that is similar to them,” Leach said. “The very most important thing is kindness because anybody can be taught to lead an activity, but if you’re not a kind individual you won’t look after somebody else.”
Noles agrees that kindness is the number one thing they want in a Link Crew leader.
“[We want] someone who is going to show up when they’re supposed to show up and be as involved as I hope they want to be,” Noles said. “Overwhelmingly, have a kind heart and be able to see kids that maybe usually aren’t seen.”
While Leach and Noles do not avoid many qualities in a potential leader, there is one thing that they dread to see in a leader.
“We have had experiences with people who are very attracted to the fact that this is a leadership role and it looks great on a college application,” Noles said. “And it does, but if the only reason you’re doing it is to polish a college application, then I don’t think you’re doing it for the right reasons and…you’re going to be the person who doesn't show up.”
If Noles had to pick one student that truly embodies what Link Crew is all about, it would be Rose senior Shakyla Whitehurst. Leach and Noles had many amazing leaders this school year, but Whitehurst stands out the most.
“She has gone above and beyond with her freshmen to the point where her freshmen contacted us to find out when they were coming back to advisory,” Noles said. “She made little letters for them on our last day to tell them how much they meant and I’ve seen her walking with some of the freshmen; she really took them under her wing.”
Whitehurst has been a Link Crew leader for the past two years. She first joined because she knew how hard the transition from middle school to high school is. Link Crew has taught Whitehurst how to be a role model and how to teach others to be a role model.
“One of my freshmen used to get in fights a lot, so I talked to her about how it wasn’t worth it and she should focus on her education,” Whitehurst said. “I talked to her every day to make sure she was okay and now she's doing great.”
Whitehurst is thankful for all that Leach and Noles have taught her through the Link Crew program.
“They taught me to ‘yes, and…’ in a whole bunch of situations and to be more confident in how I see things,” Whitehurst said. “I used to have really bad social anxiety and I’m a lot more confident since I’ve joined Link Crew, so I’m thankful for that.”