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Massena Central freshmen join with Link Crew for orientation

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MASSENA - Massena High School held its first Pep Rally of the year Wednesday - even though school doesn’t officially start until Sept. 5.

Incoming freshmen were invited to join their Link Crew leaders for a few hours of organized activities that included several team-building group events in the gymnasium.

Link Crew students are juniors and seniors who have volunteered to act as mentors for freshmen students. Each Link Crew team has approximately 10 to 12freshmen students who will be in contact with each other throughout the year to help ease the transition to high school.

“The whole thing is an icebreaker,” said senior Asa Kershner, a member of the Link Crew who also volunteered as a junior.

The Link Crew members wore red shirts that read “Link Crew 2013-2014, We’re About Excellence.” They’ll also be wearing the shirts on opening day to make themselves identifiable to the freshmen.

They were waiting early Wednesday morning as the freshmen arrived at the gymnasium for the orientation. Music blared through the air and, as the freshmen waited in line to receive their name tags, Link Crew members danced up a storm to keep them entertained.

“First we line up them in the gym and do activities to break the ice,” Mr. Kershner said.

Guidance counselor Robert Jordan led the students in the morning of ice-breaking and team-building activities in the gymnasium. Among them was a “balloon pop” in which a team of freshmen carried a balloon to Link Crew member and, placing the balloon between them, had to pop it.

In another exercise, students were organized into several groups and had to line up by height - without talking. They were later asked to line up by birth date, again, without saying a word.

Mr. Jordan also had some words of wisdom for the students, who he said showed motivation by attending the optional orientation.

He said there were three types of people, and they were among the “do-ers,” people who make things happen.

“These are people who decide, ‘I’ve never been on a sports team before. Now is my time to shine. I’m going to take a chance,’” Mr. Jordan said.

There are others who decide to watch from the sidelines, he told the students.

“These are people who sit back and think a little more carefully. Watchers watch because they’re entertained. The next time they say, ‘I’m going to be out there.’ That’s ok as long as you take that step,” Mr. Jordan said.

And then, he said, there are the people who wondered what just happened.

“These are the people who are not here today,” he said. “If you don’t get in the game, if you don’t at least watch the game, it’s going to pass you by. Right now every person you see in a red T-shirt is a person who makes it happen. Every one of those people in a red shirt is here for you.”

Once the activities were completed in the gym, Link Crew members took their teams and headed to separate rooms where they held other activities.

The juniors and seniors will also be available during the school year, holding regular follow-up academic and social activities like Game Night for their teams.

“It’s just so they don’t come into high school completely blind,” Mr. Kershner said. “It really showed last year. The kids were not so shy. They were talking and asking questions. They actually know where they’re going to class.”

“It’s icebreaker stuff. It gets rid of the stereotypical cliques,” Principal Patrick J. Farrand said. “We address bullying issues and the Dignity for All Students Act.”

The Dignity Act seeks to provide the state’s public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function.

Mr. Farrand said the Link Crew program has been a benefit for not only the freshmen, but also the 65 student mentors who went through training last week.

“Those Link Crew students are getting major leadership skills. They can be contributing members of the community,” he said.

For the younger freshmen, it’s an opportunity to have a veteran student to use as a resource, according to the principal.

“We have a diverse group of Link Crew leaders,” including some from the former Alternative Education program to help those freshmen who will be transitioning into the regular classroom setting, Mr. Farrand said.

Even before Wednesday, the Link Crew leaders had already touched base with their group to tell them about the orientation.

“A week ago the Link Crew leaders called them all,” Mr. Farrand said, and they followed up with a call Tuesday night to remind them about the opportunity.

He predicted that the freshmen would no longer need the services of the Link Crew members in early 2014.

“They’ll wean them off. January or February will be the last hurrah,” he said.

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