Link Crew eases transition for incoming La Jolla High School freshmen

The first day of high school brings a bevy of emotions. It also brings a series of questions. Will I make friends? Should I join a club? Will classes be too hard? What if I get bullied? Does that person like me?

For the students entering their freshman year at La Jolla High School this year, they have the Link Crew to ease the transition and answer questions before their first day.

During freshman orientation Aug. 28, the more than 400 incoming freshmen broke into groups with the 150 Link Crew leaders, who are all in their junior and senior years.

The incoming freshmen played ice-breaking games so they could get to know each other and their Link Crew leaders.

“The whole point is so each freshman leaves here with 10 new friends,” said senior and Link Crew leader David Schultz. “These orientation games help people get to know each other and help them with the transition, because it helps to have a familiar face on your first day.”

Associated Student Body (under which the Link Crew operates) president Zoe Rashid agreed. “The hardest part of your first day of school is walking into class and not knowing anyone,” she said. “You might know people from middle school when you come here, but this is a new place and people are going to be looking for new friends and someone they have something in common with. So the activities are more to introduce people and see that they find someone they can talk to. We want to make it so when they walk down the hall on the first day of school, or walk into a classroom, they see a familiar face.”

In a group of nine incoming freshmen and three Link Crew members, icebreakers included each student stating their name, what they had for breakfast, and from what middle school they came.

They also did the Human Knot, where students standing in a circle grab a hand and have to untangle themselves without detaching, and created lists of all the things they had in common (loving In-N-Out Burger seemed to be universal).

The small sessions also offered the opportunity to ask questions. “There might be something they wouldn’t want to ask in front of everyone, or ask an adult. They might think some questions might be frivolous and you wouldn’t want to ask, but this is a great way for them to know we are there for them and are happy to help them,” Rashid said.

A common topic, Schultz said, is teacher reputations. “There are some teachers that have a bad reputation and the incoming freshman want to know more about that,” he said. “We let them know every teacher is different. Some are ... interesting.” At the breakout session, the topic was broached. Addressing the reputation that a certain teacher is mean, the Link Crew leaders clarified that she is just tough. “If you can pass her class, you can pass anything,” Schultz said.

One teacher was commended for her unique wardrobe, another for his jokes.

Questions for Link Crew leaders are encouraged, both in the groups and throughout the year.

“We have them wear their bright red Link Crew shirts throughout the year so they can be spotted across campus and a freshman would know they can go up to them and ask questions,” ASB advisor Kerry Dill said.

She added the students are encouraged to focus on the positive, so as not to overwhelm incoming students. That’s why the heavier subjects, such as bullying or drugs, are not brought up with Link Crew. But soon after school starts, the campus recognizes the anti-bullying month of October, where students learn that bullying will not be accepted.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying,” Rashid said. “We want people to feel as welcomed as possible. Everyone is a part of the school.”

So Link Crew orientation day keeps it light, offering get-to-know-you games and a tour of the school, led by Link Crew leaders. Schultz said he even gives his phone number to his Link Crew group, so they can contact him throughout the year.

“Link Crew was something that helped me when I came to La Jolla High, because I didn’t know too many people,” he said. “I was in a group with people from different middle schools, and I’m still friends with some of them today, so I wanted to pass that on.”