By Jane Zhang
As many of you may know, there have been several major changes to Backyard this year. Rather than having freshman through senior Backyards, most Backyards will consist of just 10th through 12th grade students, while others will contain only freshmen and be led by upperclassmen Link Crew leaders. According to Ms. Voss, the head coordinator of Link Crew, the reason for this big change is that although “[Link Crew] did a great job for Freshman Orientation, it became difficult to maintain the same level of energy and connection because life gets busy. We were trying to get the Link Crew Leaders and their 9th grade groups together outside of the school day and that’s very difficult due to how busy everyone is. We know that many other schools have a regular scheduled time during the school day for the Link Crew Leaders to meet with the 9th graders. Our logical opportunity for that was Backyard.” In order to accommodate, twenty-four Backyards were broken up and re-assigned into other Backyards. These “empty” backyards were then filled with classes of incoming freshmen.
Each of these ninth grade Backyards will be led by four or five Link Crew Leaders who will have led them through freshmen orientation. In these Backyards, there will be a three week rotation. For two of those three weeks, the Link Crew Leaders will lead activities with their freshmen in the Backyard. These activities will provide good lessons to the ninth graders on success in school, and since they will be led by other students, they will come from a peer perspective. The third week, the teacher of the Backyard will facilitate an activity while the Link Crew Leaders are trained on the next set of activities.
Why Link Crew? According to research, the more smoothly students can make the transition into high school, the more of them will graduate. By investing in the freshmen, success and graduation rates of high school will increase. “It’s difficult to recover if you have a tough 9th grade year – not impossible, but difficult. That’s why schools want to make the transition to high school as successful for as many students as possible,” as Ms. Voss says.
Link Crew is an international program that was created over twenty years ago. It has helped millions of ninth graders transition into high school, with the key to its success being peer role models – peers that work with, speak to, and advise ninth graders to help smooth the transition. Ninth graders are able to get good advice and tips on how to succeed at Memorial, and it also gives upperclassmen Link Crew leaders an opportunity to develop leadership skills. In the words of Ms. Voss, “Students can help other students and this is a win-win for all involved.”
By Jane Zhang