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Creating connections for the Class of 2017

Freshmen find crew of upperclassmen ready to help them connect


by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - On their first day of school, freshmen pour out the WLHS auditorium after a short orientation by the staff.With 430 freshmen joining about 1,200 older students at West Linn High School this fall, any student in the class of 2017 could easily become lost in the crowd — or fall through the cracks. That’s not going to happen if Jonathan Peachey’s plans work the way they’re designed to.

Peachey, a Spanish teacher and a 1999 graduate of WLHS, knows firsthand how easy and how detrimental it can be to fail to engage students in their freshman year. He once was that ninth-grader who held back, kept to himself and felt utterly miserable.

“I was the kid in high school who didn’t have connections,” Peachey said. “I ate lunch every day alone. And I waited every day for the day to be over.”

He discovered choir as a sophomore and that became his key to high school involvement.

“I loved my teachers and I loved the community and I loved academics, but I didn’t have the connections,” he said.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Freshman Ben Gans exits the long line of teachers and Link Crew members greeting the new freshmen during freshman orientation Sept. 3.Fittingly, Peachey now is the faculty leader of a group called Link Crew, an organization of older students designed specifically to create opportunities for freshmen to feel connected to their school. He has a master’s degree in educational leadership with a focus on mentoring.

“We are really focused on freshman success,” he said. “Freshman year is a huge indicator of high school success, both socially and academically.”

Link Crew leaders were chosen because of their leadership skills, their good moral and academic character and their expressed interest in helping others. This year, Peachey is working with about 130 mentors, including 40 seniors, 60 juniors and, for the first time, a group of about 30 sophomores. These leaders are the key to Link Crew success.

“We had a lot of applications and took leaders from a lot of different interest groups,” Peachey said. “We had a survey built, for mentors and freshmen, based on interest.”

The groups will have the opportunity to shuffle membership to ensure freshmen are paired with mentors who share some interests.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - WLHS Link Crew members, from left, Will Strickland, Frederik Larsen and Jordan Dailey meet with their group of incoming freshmen during freshman orientation Sept. 3.“Leaders are knowledgeable about clubs and where you can get involved,” Peachey said. “There are so many co-curricular activities, and there really is something for everyone.”

Link Crew is a leadership program. Mentors spend between five and 10 hours each month on Link Crew activities. They attend regular meetings and on early-release days they will host academic time, an hour-long study and social session that freshmen are required to attend. Older students are invited to join in too.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Kayley Arzu holds her sign directing the freshmen in her group where to meet during their first day Sept. 3.That’s a prime example of the Link Crew motto — Lead. Serve. Connect. — and of Peachey’s hopes for the newest students at WLHS.

“The desire I have for them (is) to develop trusting relationships and connections with other people,” he said. “Connectivity and compassion are of the upmost importance.”



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