High school program creates 'link' for freshmen class

For the first time in five years, Trumbull High School’s Link Crew program held its annual Freshmen Orientation before the start of school on Aug. 20. The incoming class of 553 freshmen was ushered into the school gymnasium amidst the energetic cheering of nearly 120 upperclassmen Link Leaders. In the past, orientation was delayed due to either storms, such as Hurricane Sandy, or ongoing construction problems. Fortunately, this year marked the first time Link Crew Orientation and Link Leader training coincided almost perfectly with how the program is intended to run.

This event is just the first of many of phases to support and ease freshmen into the overwhelming transition from middle school to high school. In fact, Link Crew is designed as an all-year program that continuously aids freshmen with struggles or transitional issues. Trumbull High teacher and Link Crew Coordinator Libbi Intemann introduced Link Crew, a subdivision of the Boomerang Project, to the high school five years ago.

“The real gist, the real power of the Link Crew program, is about connection, and because it’s about connection, it has to be about student to student more so than administrator to student, because it’s really the students who run the program,” Intemann said. “That bond is emphasized in Link Crew.”

This program is a nationwide and global initiative for freshmen. Therefore, the curriculum and overall program is very similar from high school to high school.

“I think that orientation was much more effective since it was [held] before school began,” said Trumbull High senior and Link Crew Commissioner Natalie Intemann. “It gave us leaders a chance to meet and connect with our crew members, which not only gave them increased comfort about the scary beginning of high school, but also gave us a chance to meet our year-long crew.”

This sentiment was echoed by freshman Viraj Dongaonkar: “Link Crew has made me a more successful high schooler,” he said. “Their dedication and passion towards assisting freshmen was overwhelmingly kind. … Freshmen orientation made me more confident in myself and I felt more positive towards high school. I am so glad Link Crew is there for us freshmen.”

At orientation, 60 groups, each consisting of about two Link Leaders and nine freshmen, participate in various activities that parallel challenges faced by high school students on a regular basis.

In “64 Squares,” as the name suggests, 64 pieces of paper are laid out and the crew must work as a true team. By relying on memory and each other, the group needs to discover a path to reach the end of the maze. Consequently, “64 Squares” teaches freshmen one of the most valuable lessons they can take away from orientation.

According to THS teacher and Link Crew Coordinator Vincent Artese, “The activity is a powerful analogy of what a journey through high school is like. It shows how we make mistakes but then try again and again until we make it to the other side and graduate. It is all about finding a ‘path’ and then following the path to the other side. ... Once you find the path, you lead others through it, and you learn from others in the process.”

Additionally, all of the freshmen received vital information specific to the school. A highlight of orientation was the crew-led tours of Trumbull High, which allowed the freshmen to become familiar with the building’s extensive layout.

For the duration of the year, Link Leaders will lead four Academic Follow-Ups in freshmen classes that further promote academic and social success in high school. Link Crew also hosts social activities, supports freshmen sporting events, and much more.

Freshmen, the student body, and teachers alike should look forward to the many plans Link Crew has in store for this year. All events will further enhance the mission of the program, especially fully acclimating ninth graders into the THS community.

“It’s critical that the kids feel like they’re a part of something much bigger than just their own individual class,” Intemann said. “They are also a part of a school that welcomes them and who better to welcome kids than other kids?”