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Not just another link in the chain

How the advisors are working to make Link Crew more than just orientation.

 

Link Crew is responsible for welcoming an entire class of new Blue Devils each year. Meant to ease the transition between middle and high school, the club’s success depends on fostering relationships between upperclassmen and freshmen. Unfortunately, this isn’t always feasible.

In accordance with The Boomerang Project, the organization that founded Link Crew, South hosted a leadership conference on Oct. 18. Approximately 250 participants from seven different high schools in Metro Detroit gathered in the Boll Center for a training session. Meanwhile, Link Crew advisor Melanie Lauer met with their coordinators to discuss potential improvements to the program. The goal was to re-engage leaders who had fallen out of touch with Link Crew’s purpose.

“I think everyone has really good intentions when they sign up for Link Crew,” Lauer said. “But when you’re in the middle of a school year and you’ve got your own craziness and chaos going on, life gets busy. You lose focus on what you’re supposed to be doing and what your freshmen really need.”

Upperclassman disconnect is a rising issue within Link Crew. Juniors and seniors brush off their leadership responsibilities to prioritize school work, other extracurriculars and their personal lives as the year progresses. Their freshmen are all but forgotten after orientation. Link Crew advisor Andrew Taylor said he is working to bridge the gap between leaders and freshmen.

“It’s frustrating but it’s real,” Taylor said. “Everyone’s busy, so doing those follow up activities is hard.”

Lauer and Taylor built more accountability into the program by establishing check-ins. Rarely, they will remove a leader who fails to contact their assigned students.

“We really need someone who’s going to be there for them,” Lauer said. “It’s not fair to your group of freshmen if you’re just not following through on your commitment.”

On the other side of the coin, many freshmen are reluctant to come forward with questions and concerns they may have. Attempts to reach out by their leaders are ignored.

“Some of the leaders don’t text out, but more importantly, a lot of the freshmen don’t text back,” Taylor said.

Link Crew primarily relies on digital means of communication, which has proved to be ineffective for the most part. Lauer said she encourages leaders to reach out in person when possible.

“We don’t know which freshmen are struggling and you might think this kid’s writing you off or whatever,” Lauer said. “But saying ‘hi’ to them in the hallway can really mean a lot if you’re a junior or a senior.”

According to Lauer, many leaders hesitate to take on an in-person approach because the social component can be uncomfortable. She described a good leader as somebody who is willing to step out of their comfort zone in order to better support freshmen.

“It feels awkward at first, but the more you do it and the more you build a relationship with them, the more natural it becomes,” Lauer said.

Lauer said leaders are meant to positively influence freshmen by being kind and outgoing role models; it ensures the strength and longevity of the club.

“I think of Link Crew as a domino effect sort of program,” Lauer said. “The better our leaders become for their freshmen, the more those freshmen will understand what it means to be a good leader when they get to be juniors and seniors. It truly is like a legacy.”

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