Incoming PHS Ninth Graders to be Mentored by Link Crew

From making new friends to navigating through unfamiliar surroundings to encountering academic challenges, the transition from middle school to high school can be an intimidating experience for many students. 

In fact, research has shown that if students have a positive experience during their first year in high school, especially by the end of the first semester, their chances for success increases dramatically, said PHS Assistant Principal Scott Hegen.

That is why Hegen, the incoming freshman class principal, is excited by the prospects of Link Crew, a new peer-mentoring program that will debut this fall. Specially selected and trained juniors and seniors will guide freshmen to discover what it takes to be successful during the transition to high school and help facilitate their success.

With 640 students, the Class of 2021 is the largest incoming freshman class in school history.

Link Crew’s secret sauce is allowing students to connect with each other on their terms, in their own language, to communicate expectations. 

“Link Crew sets the tone for incoming freshman from a student-driven view, as opposed to teachers or administrators explaining what is expected from them academically and socially,” says Hegen.

PHS decided to adopt the Link Crew program after receiving a positive endorsement from Souderton Area High School Principal Sam Varano, a former Pennridge teacher who has seen it in action at his school for a few years.

“He says it has changed the culture of their building,” says Hegen.

The PHS Link Crew consists of 170 juniors and seniors who volunteered for the program after being recommended by their teachers. Not necessarily the most outgoing or most popular students, Link Crew members must be able to relate to all types of students, says Hegen.

“These are good kids who enjoy being in high school and want to make it a memorable experience for everyone,” he says.
After an orientation on August 25, Link Crew leaders will meet with their teams of 8-10 students at least twice a month during homeroom period to address concerns and to provide guidance. One-on-one meetings are also possible, says Hegen.

By providing a structure in which students make real connections with each other, Link Crew’s goal is to increase school safety by reducing discipline referrals and improving academic performance.

“It matches our social and emotional learning curriculum in many, many ways,” says Hegen.