For Link Crew Leaders, a Special Connection

Photo by Zane Hill / OUTLOOK Seniors Patricio Osegueda (from left), Olivia Ruiz, Emily Boutin and Ben Miller are among the first group of San Marino High School Link Crew leaders who, as freshmen, were mentored by past crew leaders. They draw from that experience to help prepare this year’s freshmen for high school.
Photo by Zane Hill / OUTLOOK
Seniors Patricio Osegueda (from left), Olivia Ruiz, Emily Boutin and Ben Miller are among the first group of San Marino High School Link Crew leaders who, as freshmen, were mentored by past crew leaders. They draw from that experience to help prepare this year’s freshmen for high school.

Now in its fourth year, the Link Crew program at San Marino High School is boasting its first group of seniors who were in the initial group of freshmen the project targeted to help them integrate into the high school.
Those senior leaders remember what it was like as freshmen coming in from Huntington Middle School and are using that to prepare to welcome the incoming crop of 9th-graders at their orientation day on Friday. Link Crew, back in the day, made their foray into high school that much better.
“They guided us toward the right direction,” said Olivia Ruiz this week while preparing for orientation. “Because we were kind of lost as freshmen, they gave us an example to follow. They were like role models.”
Link Crew comprises about 90 SMHS students who apply to help usher in the freshman class each year. They lead groups of incoming students for a campus tour and icebreaker on their orientation day and will continue to host activities throughout the school year to keep them involved. Transfers or students who have recently moved into San Marino are included as well.
“It showed us that the upperclassmen didn’t feel superior to us,” Emily Boutin said of her freshman orientation with Link Crew years ago. “We’re all one group here, and there’s no big divide between the upperclassmen and [underclassmen].”
Boutin and Ruiz, who both joined Link Crew as juniors, are taking a bit of a step away this year to take on broader duties as Link Crew commissioners. They and the other commissioners are in effect coordinating the different groups of freshmen and their crew leaders to make sure the operation is running smoothly.
“It’s kind of sad to not have my own group, but in a way, we have multiple groups that we’re all helping out,” Ruiz explained.
Patricio Osegueda, who joined Link Crew this year, said that when he was a freshman the experience helped him meet new people even within his grade level and make friends with them, and that made acclimating to SMHS easier.
“It’s kind of weird being on the other side now, but it’s cool helping kids transition into the high school,” he said.
Osegueda and Boutin shared one advantage in their freshman year: Each had older siblings at SMHS, so they already knew some upperclassmen with whom they now shared a school.
“But a lot of kids don’t have older siblings,” Boutin said. “I think Link Crew is very beneficial, especially for kids who don’t know any upperclassmen.”
This group of students said the campus tour was the most helpful part of orientation, because it afforded them a chance to familiarize themselves with their school-day routine without the pressure of a real school day.
It was also helpful, they said, to get an idea of what class would be like. Boutin said students often fall into a trap of loading up on more honors and AP courses than they can manage, and she herself admitted that she dropped out of honors math as a freshman; she’s still enrolled in AP math for her senior year.
Osegueda added that students like himself who could safely rely on their academic acumen in middle school can have a rude awakening and discover the need to study regularly once they’re in high school.
“Now it’s like, if you don’t study, you’ll fail the test,” he said.
Laura Ives, the student support counselor who co-coordinates the Link Crew program, said interest in being a leader has increased each year and about 100 applicants were turned away during the process this year. The number of returning applicants also has increased, with 30 of this year’s leaders having participated last year as well.
The SMHS PTSA also now has a line item in its annual fundraising for monthly Link Crew activities throughout the school year. Some students are working on a Link Crew website launching this school year, and leaders are being prepped to promote the new Titan Wellness Center at the SMHS library. The center is part of the districtwide student wellness initiative.
“We’re going to be incorporating them into the proactive parts of student wellness,” Ives said.
Ben Miller, who is in his second year as a Link Crew leader, said it mattered to him as a freshman to know older students well and interact with them during the school day. With regular events throughout the year and better organization, the program has only improved, in his view.
“Since my freshman orientation, I’ve seen the program grow,” he said. “Now I think it’s good that we have the events throughout the year to keep in touch with our students. The importance of Link Crew doesn’t end on orientation day.”

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