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Sierra, Lathrop welcome Class of 2016
Sierra High Link Crew members and incoming freshmen sit together at Fridays Sierra High freshmen orientation. - photo by HIME ROMERO

The first day of school is next week.

But for members of the Class of 2016 – specifically, Sierra High and Lathrop High – that day might as well have been Friday morning.

“When was the last time (this summer) you got up this early?” asked Justin Minteer of the SHS freshmen attending the orientation event hosted by Link Crew.

He and Tony Pacheco head Link Crew, a long-standing tradition at the school. Included are 70 mentors or leaders who will spend the year working with an estimated 328 ninth-grade students.

Nicole Burrows along with Rachelle Fast and Samantha Danley are in charge of Link Crew at Lathrop High. The international program is new to the school.

“We want (the freshmen) to feel welcome,” said Burrows, who, at last count, had 24 Link Crew leaders handling 309 freshmen.

Of that amount, about half attended the inaugural orientation held in the main gym.

“Link Crew is here to help you,” Burrows said. “Not just today but for the rest of the school year.”

The process began last April with the advisors spent a few days in training. From there, they went through a selection process for Link Crew leaders, in turn, getting upperclassmen from various backgrounds.

“We actually had to turn away a lot of students including some who were highly qualified,” said Sierra High’s Anthony Chapman.

He’s the former Link Crew advisor turned Activities / Athletic Director at the school. Leaders, he noted, are required to maintain their grades along with good attendance.

Minteer conducted some of the ice-breaking activities at SHS that included freshmen and Link Crew leaders, for example, playing a high school version of ‘Simon Says’ or the refrain from the children’s song, ‘Old MacDonald.’

Assistant Principal Dan Beukelman – he along with Principal Steve Clark and Vice Principal Greg Leland were introduced to freshmen at the orientation – hopes to see many of the same faces in the next four years.

The goal, he said, is graduation. “The next time we meet here is when we make that walk from (the gym) to the stadium,” Beukelman added.

Lathrop has that same goal in mind.

Burrows, who spent 13 years at SHS – she was never involved in Link Crew during that time – has newcomers who came over from Lathrop Elementary, Mossdale and Joseph Widmer schools.

 From a few hundreds, they’re making the transition to a campus with 1,100 students.

“There’s a strong possibility that you’ll walk into a classroom and won’t know a soul,” Burrows said to the freshmen.

Thanks to Link Crew, they have a chance to ease into their new environment come Thursday when classes resume.

“They have to trust in the process,” Minteer said.