Students Stronger When Linked

“I remember being very nervous in grade nine,” said 17-year-old Brodey Casselman. “I wasn’t from the area and I didn’t know many people at Seaway. I remember how scary it was not to know people, and how I would have liked some one to turn to.” 

Brodey, along with 15 other senior students at Seaway, has chosen to join the new board-wide Link program that will be introduced at Seaway this September.

When Seaway District High School opens its doors on September 4, the 2012 grade nines will find that there is definitely someone they can turn to, to help ease the transition from elementary to high school. 

“The Link program is based on a big project developed by California educators known as the Boomerang Project,” said Heather Thompson, the teacher who is heading up Seaway’s new program, with the support of fellow teacher Lilace McIntyre and guidance councillor Mark Lewis. 

“The focus of the Boomerang Project is to create a positive transition for grade nines into high school. That is also the focus of the Link program of the Board.”

Teachers introducing Link programs to their schools (known as Link co-ordinators) themselves take part in three days of intensive training with professionals, the “best training experience I’ve ever had,” Thompson said.

The one credit Interdisciplinary Course on Leadership that is now set up at Seaway High School (the Link program) has been developed for grade 12 students who will act throughout the school year as mentors, friends and role models to the grade nines with whom they are matched.

These Link leaders, as the grade 12 students are described, “we hope can begin to build strong relationships with our grade nines,” Thompson said. “They become people to whom grade nines can safely turn to ask questions, to seek help, to share worries and concerns as they adapt to a new high school environment. There are two link leaders for every grade nine ‘crew’ of 8-10 students.”

Grade 12 students get into the Link program by applying. Some Seaway seniors have had their names put forward by teachers who have seen qualities in them of which even they may be unaware.

“I was recommended to the program,” said Sierra Stone, 17, who has also opted to join Link. “When I came to Seaway in grade nine, I did know some people, but it was easy to be intimidated by kids older than me.”

The students who have been selected to join the Link program must make a personal commitment in terms of time and effort, and not just in a classroom. They must involve themselves in all aspects of the nines’ school life. Outside regular school hours training is mandatory.

The Leader attended an intensive work shop held at Seaway on Monday, August 27, where the 16 seniors, all chosen for different strengths and unique qualities during the June screening process, were undergoing training. 

The seniors were, in a number of organized activities, learning how to lead their student groups, how to break the ice and how to set up comfortable dialogues. The training they were undergoing teaches them leadership and communication skills, works with them in learning to cope with unexpected or challenging situations, helps them explore ways to reach younger students who need support.

“The Boomerang program is strongly organized and purposeful,” Thompson said. “and it’s been proven to have a positive impact on a whole school. It sends a strong message that we are not only supporting our nines, but teaching leadership qualities to our 12s. I think this program will start the school year off in a positive, energetic way that will make this the best year at Seaway.”

The newly trained grade 12s will have the chance to put their knowledge to good use on Thursday, August 30, when all grade nines are invited to attend their high school orientation, starting at 8 a.m. 

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