SANTA MARIA, Calif. - More than 600 incoming freshman filled the Pioneer Valley High School campus on Friday morning. Joined with nearly 150 upperclassmen, the 9th graders were taking part in the school's Link Crew orientation.
"We're basically going to build that connect between junior high and high school," said Marcie Guerra, Link Crew coordinator. "It's a tough transition and we're such a big campus. We're one of the biggest campuses on the Central Coast, so we want to make them feel super comfortable with our campus, get to know it a little better, feel confident on that day when they walk in so they can get involved right away and know what activities are going on."
The four-hour event combines games, activities, team building exercises, campus tours and much more as a way to welcome the freshman to their new school. During the orientation, freshman break off into groups of about 15 students, and are guided by three Link Crew leaders, which are juniors and seniors.
"We're really there to try and form close bonds with the kids," said mentor Erik Ruiz. "And to try to show them about the school and get them acclimated and tell them what should do and shouldn't do."
The senior said helping out at the event as a brought back memories when he attended the event as a freshman three years earlier.
"It's very exciting," said Ruiz. "It's almost as if I'm going back in time. It shows that time can flies and that's what I'm going to try and teach my freshman group to enjoy high school."
To help incoming freshman enjoy their high school experience even more, Link Crew helps the students connect with others, as well as give them valuable knowledge and insight into the vast array of clubs, groups, sports and other activities on campus.
While orientation lasts only a few hours, the Link Crew program is year-round. Freshman will stay connected with their Link Crew leaders during the rest of the school year. In addition, freshman will take part in a number of activities that are organized only for 9th graders, including an ice cream social, dance, pool party, as well as various giveaways throughout the yaer.
"I think it's very fun and creative," said freshman Isabella Mora. "I think it's a great way for us to come out as high school students and not be so shy anymore. You get to know more people. I have already made two new friends already, so I guess that could lead to a great relationships."
Guerra notes the orientation is not only a popular way to help freshman transition to high school, Link Crew has also been an effective tool to help them achieve long-term success.
"We have run data looking at the number of attendance issues, discipline issues and since we've stared Link Crew, we've noticed those incidents have gone down," said Guerra. "So our 9th graders grades have gone up a little bit, their attendance, in terms of missing school, has decreased, the discipline issues have gone down a little bit and we've noticed more 9th graders getting involved in spirit days, getting involved with activities."
Getting involved is what each of the 600-plus freshman on Friday were able to do. From the reaction of the students, it was a big success.
"I feel right at home and I thought I was going to feel nervous or something, kind of judged, but I don't feel judged, I feel like everyone here knows each other already," said freshman Elizabeth Hernandez.
School starts at Pioneer Valley High School on Wednesday, Aug. 10