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Link crew helps RHS freshmen get acquainted
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Scott Sikma and other Link Crew leaders listen to the instructions provided by Ripon High activities director Jill Mortensen. - photo by VINCE REMBUALT
RIPON – Most of this year’s freshmen class can expect to hit the floor running amid their new surroundings.

They’re among the Ripon High students returning to the classroom today for the start of the new school year.

The group of newcomers can thank Link Crew for helping ease the transition.

“I really think they’ll be OK,” said activities director Jill Mortensen, who is also the Link Crew coordinator.

In particular, she was encouraged to see the majority of these students take to the ice-breaking activities during freshmen orientation Wednesday morning in the North Gym.

“They were very interactive,” Mortensen said. “Many were able to break free of their comfort zone.”

During her six-year involvement with Link Crew, she noticed the different dynamics with each freshmen class during this annual exercise.

Link Crew is a leadership program offered at many high schools nationwide.

The program allows each school to select upper-classmen to be linked with freshmen throughout the year.

“We started this process back in May,” Mortensen said.

As a result, 35 mostly seniors and juniors were selected as leaders for the year-long program. Part of their job will be to get these newcomers involved by informing them about the various school functions and activities.

Included is the ice cream social planned for the fall and back-to-school night.

“The Link Crew leaders will be there to help parents of freshmen find their way around the campus,” said Mortensen.

Jill McPherson, who teaches Spanish at the school, also volunteered her services to Link Crew.

“Since I’m bilingual, I can help with students who are English learners,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mortensen noted that freshmen year can be socially and academically tough on students.

Many go from the comforts of being at the top of the pecking order at their elementary school, to the new kids on the block at high school.

At Ripon High, the majority of these students are products of the Ripon Unified feeder schools –Colony Oak, Ripona, Weston, and Ripon Elementary.

“Academically, they’re adjusting to a schedule of seven classes a day,” Mortensen said. “They have to be on time and, for athletes, maintain their eligibility.”

She’s hoping that youngsters, in this case, will take advantage of the Renaissance Program, a tutorial service for freshmen, to help ease the burden.

Of course, students can also turn to their Link Crew leader for help throughout the year.

“Our leaders remember what it’s like to be a freshman – they can be helpful,” Mortensen said.