Students in the Link Crew are pictured. The program started at Lamphere and was such a success that it was brought to Page.

Students in the Link Crew are pictured. The program started at Lamphere and was such a success that it was brought to Page.

Photo provided by Zoe Wainz

Lamphere leadership programs ease transition for new students

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published September 11, 2018

MADISON HEIGHTS — For sixth- and ninth-graders, the transition to middle school and high school can be daunting. That’s why Lamphere Public Schools has student leadership programs where upperclassmen help the incoming students find their footing. 

At Lamphere High, the program is called Link Crew, while at John Page Middle School, it goes by the name WEB, short for “Where Everybody Belongs.” WEB was created in 2017 as an extension of Link Crew, which started in 2008.

Zoe Wainz, the Link Crew coordinator at Lamphere High, started the program with her colleague George Sicken. 

“This was around the time that the state implemented new graduation requirements with higher expectations of the students,” Wainz said. “We knew that we had to do something to get our students more involved in school and more comfortable with the transition from middle school to high school. Having that smooth transition and feeling connected to the school community helps them succeed.”  

Incoming students are often nervous about coming to a new, larger school, she said. 

“Typically, they have more academic responsibilities, and oftentimes more emotional stress over social issues, especially due to social media these days,” Wainz said. “By putting in place a structure where freshmen get the necessary support to navigate through this transition, academically and socially, we are setting the tone for a positive high school experience.” 

This year, there were 62 upperclassmen as mentors at the high school and 44 eighth-graders as mentors at the middle school. They assisted 200 freshmen and 190 sixth-graders, respectively. 

The name “Link Crew” comes from linking six to seven freshmen with two “Link Leaders.” Leader pairs are often a senior and a junior — one guy and one girl. The leaders first meet their freshman “Linkees” at freshman orientation at the end of August. During the school year, they meet twice a month during the silent reading period. There are also freshmen-only events led by Link Leaders throughout the year, such as a movie night and the final exam review sessions. 

For WEB, each leader pair consists of two eighth-graders who meet with small groups of sixth-graders at events, activities and mentoring throughout the year, starting with orientation.   

“Some of the difficulties our sixth-graders face are dealing with the unknown aspects of middle school,” said Holly Johnson, WEB coordinator along with Jaimeson Bishop and Dawn Keller. “Sixth-grade students are concerned with finding their classes on time, making new friends and opening their locker.”

Student mentors go through an application process to be selected for the following school year and are finalized by a team of teachers, counselors and administrators. The finalists receive training in the spring and summer. Their primary objective is to build relationships with the incoming students so the new kids have someone to turn to for help. But they also assist them with the ins and outs of navigating the school, getting involved in school activities, and more. 

“Within the first year of having the Link Crew program, our freshman failure rate, as well as our discipline problems, decreased dramatically, and our freshman involvement in extracurricular activities such as clubs, theater and sports increased tenfold,” Wainz said. “Over the years, we have reaped the benefits that this program has given to our school. It has positively changed the culture within the building. Our leaders  learn so much through their time with Link Crew that we can easily say they gain just as much as the freshmen do through this experience.”

Johnson reported similar success for WEB.

“The program has not only enhanced the experience of our sixth-grade students, but it has allowed our eighth-grade students to see themselves as leaders in a positive light,” Johnson said. “WEB lets them know they make a difference.”