Press Mentions

Link Crew News
The New Haven Register New Haven, CT United States
by Jean Falbo-Sosnovich -
5/11/2009

SEYMOUR — Seymour High School guidance counselor Sandy Labacz has found a perfect way to ease freshman fears and anxiety about entering ninth grade.

Labacz, with teacher Erin Scozzafava, has hooked up with a California company called Boomerang and plans to incorporate its “Link Crew” program here.

In a nutshell, Link Crew is a high school transition program that welcomes freshmen and makes them feel comfortable throughout the first year of their high school experience. The program pairs freshmen with juniors and seniors, who serve as mentors to the new students throughout their freshman year. Labacz and Scozzafava have already attended a three-day training seminar on the program.

“We’ve really been trying to strengthen the support for freshmen as they transition to the high school,” Labacz said. “The program will help kids feel a connection to their school.”

“I’m hoping that the culture of the school in time will change,” Labacz said. “I don’t love how people are mean to one another, and I want kids to care about each other.”

Labacz said schools across the country that have employed the Link Crew program have shown a decrease in freshmen discipline referrals and an increase in daily attendance. She said some schools have experienced a 60 percent reduction in expulsions and 50 percent reduction in truancy. The Link Crew program was founded 17 years ago, and is in currently used by high schools in Cheshire and Middletown, as well as Amity Regional High School.

Excitement about the program here has been gaining momentum, and more than 85 upperclassmen have already signed up to become Link Crew mentors, Labacz said. She needs only about half that amount for mentors, who will undergo training sessions prior to the Aug. 21 freshmen orientation.

On orientation day, mentors will be assigned eight to 10 freshmen, and will lead them in various activities. Unlike typical “talking head” freshmen orientations, where students are divided into groups, take tours of the school and get a general overview of the rules, Labacz said the Link Crew orientation will be much more fun and interactive.

One activity the freshmen will partake in will feature a game where 64 sheets of paper are placed on the floor, and the students will take various steps on their path to life. Along the way, Labacz explained that kids may take some bad steps, and encounter “stumbling blocks,” but they will receive guidance and advice from their peers on how to stay focused for success.

“This is really going to be a fabulous program,” Labacz said.

Labacz noted that mentors and freshmen will also likely “link up” through attending football games and school dances together.

Superintendent of Schools MaryAnne Mascolo said the program sounds great.

“This is going to be very exciting for our students,” she said.

Carolyn Hill, one of the founders of Link Crew, said the program was started in 1993 in response to a freshman hazing incident at a California high school.

“Over the years, though, it has developed into an orientation and transition program to not only eliminate hazing, but also assist freshmen in their first year of high school struggles and challenges,” Hill said. “Because the first year of high school is a point of transition, we believe all freshmen are at risk, so to put a structure in place that reaches out to them is essential to increase their levels of success, both academically and socially.”

Hill said many schools across the country using the program have reported a 96 percent reduction in freshmen disciplinary referrals; 75 percent increase in freshmen attendance; 73 percent reduction in freshmen tardiness and 50 percent reduction in freshmen suspensions