Linking students together
Waupaca High School launches mentoring program
By Angie Landsverk
Waupaca High School’s freshmen are being mentored by juniors and seniors this school year as part of a new program at the school.
It is called Link Crew.
“As teachers and staff, we all want to make our students feel connected and to set them up for success. Sometimes, students can reach students just as well if not better than we can,” said Danielle McHugh, who is the at-risk teacher at WHS and part of Link Crew.
She describes Link Crew as a combination of teachers and staff members working together with junior and senior mentors to help freshmen acquire the tools they need to be successful throughout high school.
McHugh was involved in Link Crew at a different school district and wanted to bring it to WHS because of the benefits she saw, said Jen Erb, the high school’s administrator of Career & Technical Education and Academic & Career Planning.
She is also a member of Link Crew.
A couple dozen juniors and juniors received 10 hours of training this summer to be part of the program.
Erb said the students interested in being Link Crew Leaders had to apply and be interviewed.
McHugh said the Link Leaders are fantastic in their own ways.
“We tried very hard to acquire a diverse group of students. The reasoning behind the diversity of Link Leaders is that there is a lot of diversity within the freshmen students themselves,” she said. “In order for our junior and senior Link Leaders to connect to our diverse freshmen, they need to represent the whole school well.”
McHugh said the Link Leaders were put into groups that meet once a week so they can prepare to talk to the crew they worked with during Freshmen Orientation.
Freshmen Orientation took place on Thursday, Aug. 31.
The freshmen were bussed to school and spent a half day at WHS.
They spent about the first hour in the gym.
“We want you to have fun today, but we want you to have that ‘oh’ moment – now I get it,” Jessica Bank said.
She is an English teacher at WHS and also a member of Link Crew.
Mark Flaten, the school’s new principal, told the freshmen the next four years will go by quickly.
“Listen. Have fun. Take it all in,” he said. “We are all here to help you prepare for life after Waupaca High School.”
Bank and McHugh guided the students through various activities before they headed into classrooms to work in smaller groups.
Erb said a team of two Link Leaders will work with 8-10 freshmen.
“They will be mentors throughout the school year. Once a month, they will do something together,” she said.
Freshmen Orientation included bonding and team-building activities.
The Link Crew Leaders also gave them tours of the school, and the freshmen also had lunch there that day.
Erb said the idea was to get the students oriented and familiar with the school to reduce stress.
“On the first two days of school, Link Crew members will wear their T-shirts,” she said.
Mark Kilcoyne is a senior at WHS and a Link Crew Leader.
“I was definitely a little nervous when I started high school,” he said.
He wanted to be involved in the program because he wants to help other students.
“It’s a great program to get them involved before school starts, to make a connection with an upperclassman.”
Kilcoyne said he learned a lot during the training.
“We’re all super excited to help them out,” he said.
Scott Van Ess, WHS’s assistant principal, said they know the transition from eighth grade to high school can be a hard one for students.
That is why they are putting effort into this program, and the students are taking the lead, he said.
Like McHugh, Flaten also is familiar with the program through his work in a previous school district.
A focus at WHS this school year is to build relationships, he said.
As a result, teachers were challenged to not dive directly into content on the first day of school but to instead begin building relationships with their new students.
Flaten said they need to think of the high school as a community and to celebrate the diversity and uniqueness of the students.
“I think it’s an exciting time,” he said.