Pizza and a Poster – LINK program at SDHS exceeds all expectations

 

In August of 2012, Seaway District High School teacher Heather Thompson had just finished training the first ever LINK group at the school. 

As Thompson said at the time, “These grade 12 students, we hope, can begin to build strong relationships with our grade nines. They can become people to whom grade nines can safely turn. I think this program will start the school year off in a positive, energetic way that will make this the best year at Seaway.”

According to UCDSB feed back, reports from teachers and administrators, and comments from both the LINK partners and the grade nines they have mentored for 10 months, the new program has, unquestionably, been an outstanding success. 

The LINK program is a one credit Interdisciplinary Course on Leadership taught at Seaway by Heather Thompson. Sixteen students completed the course.

On Wednesday, June 5, the grade nines and their LINK leaders gathered in the school cafeteria to celebrate the year, and to dedicate the first ever Legacy Poster, as a permanent tribute to this year’s grade nines.

The students took part in some spirit building activities with their LINK leaders, then were introduced to the Legacy Poster, Before I Graduate…, the work of LINK student Jessica Bass. 

“Jessica’s leadership idea was to create a legacy poster (the concept originated with the Before I Die…project) specifically for this school,” said Heather Thompson. “She worked through several drafts with graphic artist Lesley Ellam, and came up with this beautiful final result. Her hope is to see a wall of posters at Seaway creating a permanent legacy of each year’s grade nines.”

Every grade nine student was invited to sign his/her name to the 2013 poster, which will be laminated and mounted on a wall at the school. 

How has putting in place a LINK program affected Seaway? 

“This year the board asked every grade nine student it serves to complete a detailed Tell Them From Me form,” said Seaway principal, Terry Gardiner. “The TTFM was designed to survey the school climate throughout the region. It particularly asked students to rate their sense of belonging. I am proud to say that Seaway’s grade nines scored higher than the national average in their sense of belonging, and lower than the national average in feelings of bullying. 

Our grade nines have set the example for the next group of grade eights coming up, showing them this is a school to be proud of. And our LINK leaders are part of this.”

“The survey results are critical,” said Thompson. “They set Seaway apart. We are a small school, but we can make a huge difference. Through the LINK program we have seen grade nines out with their mentors doing community service and getting involved in community efforts. 

In our entire grade nine class this year, first semester, only three credits were lost. Strong teachers and strong mentoring and support from LINK leaders has made a difference. Creating a culture of caring is generating positive and real feed back, and having an impact on the whole school.”

As part of the celebration, the nines and their grade 12 mentors enjoyed pizza supplied by the board, and cookies from their principal. 

Teachers Carrie Gilmour and Melissa Ringler, who run a cross curriculum activity for grade nines combining science and english, explained that Seaway students won the pizzas for submitting posters to the board. 

“The theme was to be a way to encourage kids to take the Specialist High School Major Program,” Gilmour said. “Our students worked very hard on the project. Seaway submitted so many entries, that the Board was completely impressed, and felt we deserved a ‘prize.’ Ms Ringler and I decided to combine the pizza feast with the LINK legacy poster celebration.”

“We want to create a culture of caring and concern in our school,” Jessica Bass told the grade nines. “Each class hereafter will sign their names, as we do today, to their own posters. These posters will be an awesome reminder to all that Seaway is a great place.”

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