Across Sammamish high schools, older students lean in to help freshmen succeed
For many young teens, the transition from middle school to high school is pivotal. According to The Boomerang Project, an educational consulting company focused on creating a positive school climate, freshmen are the largest at-risk dropout population in high school. For nearly 10 years, Sammamish’s high schools have employed the Boomerang Project’s freshman transition program, Link Crew, to provide every freshman with a chance to successfully start high school and create lasting mentoring relationships with upperclassmen. Local freshmen are seeing the benefits of this program as they settle into new routines for the 2022-2023 school year.
Link Crew trains and groups upperclassmen Link Leaders with incoming freshmen. The Link Leaders help incoming freshmen get accustomed to high school, from locating classes to finding a welcoming peer community. Link Crew continues to connect throughout the year for academic as well as social support.
Link Leaders meet their freshmen at the scheduled orientation, and throughout the year they check in through texts and other school-scheduled activities. Link Leaders are always an open resource, and the freshmen are advised to reach out to them whenever they need advice or a senior mentor.
Tanvi Shah, 17, a senior at Skyline High School and current Link Leader, noted that the Link Crew environment felt awkward for the freshmen in her group at first, but as everyone opened up and asked more questions, it became much more comfortable. This strengthened the bond of the group and brought them closer together.
Yehia Sadek, 16, a junior and Link Leader at Eastlake High School, felt that his Link Crew group had fun because the freshmen slowly got to know each other and overcame the initial awkwardness. Sadek was especially focused on reaching out to reluctant freshmen. This resulted in positive attitude shifts and more participation in the activities.
“Our job is to make sure everyone at Eastlake has an opportunity to be included in the community, even if they aren’t as involved as other people,” Sadek said.
Shweta Sundar, 14, a freshman at Skyline High School, was initially quite reserved during her freshman orientation, but through Link Crew she quickly became more comfortable.
“After we got assigned our leaders and talked to them for a while, I started to feel welcome and safe. They also encouraged us to talk to each other, which kept me engaged throughout the day.”
Divij Aswinkumar, 16, a junior and Link Leader at Tesla Stem High School, has formed a strong bond with many of the Link Leaders over his two years in the program.
“Link Crew is like a really tight family for me… We are able to trust and rely on each other, and it strengthens our bond as a school,” Aswinkumar said.
Shah said that her favorite part of Link Crew is reliving freshman year and helping the freshmen have an inclusive high school experience.
Similarly, Aswinkumar enjoys being able to relate to freshman struggles and providing freshmen with advice that can improve their high school experience.
“It’s like a loop of making the transition from middle school to high school better because I remember how much the advice of my Link Crew Leaders helped me when I was in 9th grade,” Aswinkumar said.
If you want to get involved within a Link Crew at your own high school, look out for posters around the school as well as emails and announcements from teachers, counselors, and other staff that discuss applications (usually during May or June of the prior school year).