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381 freshmen made to feel at home at EU
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From left, East Union High newcomers Alyssa Clapp and Jada Heitz walk alongside their Link Crew Leader Corinne Sanders during Thursday morning’s freshmen orientation. - photo by VINCE REMBUALT

Alyssa Clapp and Jada Heitz are just a few months removed from McParland Elementary School.

That’s one of the Manteca Unified elementary school feeder sites to East Union High, where Clapp and Heitz were among the 381 newcomers enrolled for the Class of 2022.

Clapp is already getting acclimated to her new surroundings having made the EU freshmen volleyball team.

For her, Thursday morning’s freshmen orientation hosted by Link Crew was yet another step in a year of changes.

“I knew a little about Link Crew from my cousin,” she said, in reference to the ice-breaking activities from the upperclassmen.

As a Link Crew leader, Anthony Contreras was among those who led the way – true to the school motto: “Lancers lead… Others follow” – in the flurry of fun-filled events that kicked off inside the Dalben Center.

“What’s cool is that I recognized a few (of the freshmen) from Pop Warner,” he said.

Contreras, who is a three-sport athlete – he’s a wide receiver / defensive backs for the Lancers football program under head coach Willie Herrera along with wrestling and his favorite sport, baseball – also finds time to help coach football for the Manteca Cowboys youth football squad.

Now a senior, Contreras is a first-year Link Crew leader, adding more to his already busy schedule.

He’s also an example of the Link Crew program.

“Link Crew leaders are mentors and student leaders who guide the freshmen to discover what it takes to be successful during the transition from high school and help facilitate freshman success,” according to the Link Crew website (

The first step to that occurred during freshmen orientation. Included were games designed to take newcomers out of their comfort zone, according to Denise Runyon.

For the past seven years, she’s been the Link Crew advisor for the EU program and is quite familiar with the introduction to high school program.

“Many of them arrived with this blank stare on their face,” Runyon recalled. “It may take them a while to warm up (to the ice-breaking activities) but then they see our Link Crew leaders acting silly.”

Heitz can attest to that.

“It was fun,” she said. “At first, I didn’t know what to expect.”

To contact reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail