TRUSTED NEWS LEADER FOR COTTONWOOD, CAMP VERDE & THE VERDE VALLEY
Tue, April 07

Link crews ease freshmen frenzy
Mingus adopts peer program to mentor new students

Link Crew Leader Phoebe Chilton of Mingus High School mentors her group of incoming freshmen. VVN/Tom Tracey

Link Crew Leader Phoebe Chilton of Mingus High School mentors her group of incoming freshmen. VVN/Tom Tracey

COTTONWOOD - In 2001, a group of high school teachers created a program that supported incoming students. At that time, there was a 40 percent failure rate among freshmen.

They discussed how they could improve the transition. From the initial meetings in Eugene, OR, a nationwide Link program was born.

Adopted locally at Mingus Union High School, the Link program aims to lift the negativity cast upon entering freshmen. Instead, supportive upperclassmen are provided as mentors. Volunteer juniors and seniors, called "Link Crew Leaders," are trained to mentor new students, referred to as "Linklets."

Phoebe Chilton is a Mingus upperclassmen who serves as a Link Crew Leader.

"I decided to join the Link Crew this year as a junior because it is new to our school and I wanted to be a part of it," said Chilton. "It sounded like a really great way to help incoming freshmen transition into our school."

"On the first day of school, I had quite a few freshmen see my Link Crew shirt and come to me for help with lockers and directions," Chilton said. "That is something they might not have been comfortable doing without Link Crew."

Mingus Guidance Counselor and Link Crew Coordinator Cindy Forsythe explains the need for the program:

"Freshmen, experiencing a major point of transition, struggle through their first year of high school. They are, as a whole, the largest at-risk student group in high school," Forsythe said.

"While some freshmen have systems or people in their lives to provide support, many do not. Link provides a structure that allows all freshmen to have support throughout their first year of high school," said Forsythe.

Gretchen Wesbrock is another Mingus guidance counselor involved with the Link program. Like Forsythe, she has also witnessed positive results.

"Link has already made a tremendous impact on the Mingus campus," said Wesbrock.

"Teachers have shared that freshmen seem calmer and more confident. Parents have commented on how wonderful it is to have an upperclassmen connected for their students."

"The plans for 2015-2016 is to have Link Leaders connect with their students monthly for either an academic pulse check or a social event," Wesbrock said.

Link Crew Leader Chilton receives as much back from volunteering as she does in the giving of her time.

"I really like that Link Crew assigns Link Leaders to a small group of Linklets. My group this year had eleven freshmen, and I got to know each of them personally," said Chilton.

"I probably wouldn't know anyone in that class if I hadn't been in Link Crew, so I think it really bridges the gap between upperclassmen and freshmen."

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