Freshman Orientation Kicks Off 2021 School Year

Link+Crew+leader+Kandy+Valencia+Mejia+talks+to+the+freshmen+about+an+introductory+game+they+will+play+where+they+learn+each+other%27s+names.+The+large+group+of+freshmen+were+divided+into+smaller+groups+where+one+to+two+Link+Crew+leaders+would+get+to+know+them%2C+provide+high+school+advice%2C+and+give+them+a+personalized+tour.

Quinn Pedrick

Link Crew leader Kandy Valencia Mejia talks to the freshmen about an introductory game they will play where they learn each other’s names. The large group of freshmen were divided into smaller groups where one to two Link Crew leaders would get to know them, provide high school advice, and give them a personalized tour.

Quinn Pedrick, Editor-in-Chief

Freshmen Orientation, led by Valley’s Link Crew, occurred the Tuesday before the start of the school year to introduce freshmen to their new school.

Link Crew leaders with the help of their advisers introduced the new students to the physical and cultural aspects of Valley. The freshmen interacted with the junior and senior leaders in large and small groups to learn about how the social scene works as well as to learn the complex layout of the school.

“The goal of orientation, specifically for this class, is getting used to being back in school,” Link Crew Adviser Nicholas Booker said. “[They] got used to being at home and not participating, and when we got them into the gym, a lot of them were just kind of afraid. It was getting them back to socializing.”

While the freshmen were timid about being introduced to a new school, this year was a record turnout with over 400 freshmen coming with over a quarter of them participating compared to previous years with 200-250 students and lower participation rates. The Link Crew leaders contributed to the participation rate of this year by keeping the students involved with games that hit on topics ranging from learning names to what to do in high school.

“Since we had been practicing and the [Link Crew Advisers] helped us to know what the freshmen were going to think about, I already knew the freshmen were going to be a little bit shy, timid, and not outgoing, and our job was to make sure that they felt they had a safe space,” Link Crew leader Kandy Valencia Mejia said. “Me and my Link Crew leader partner tried a lot to make sure they felt involved and that we cared about them…. From my point of view, I hope that we did and I think we did. I really hope that on their part they also felt that I tried my best to make them feel comfortable.”

Freshmen Orientation is the start to high school for incoming students prior to their first official day, and many freshmen feel a mix of fearful emotions that the leaders attempt to quell through their efforts.

“At [the start of orientation] I was pretty scared [since] I’m not really good at making friends,” freshman Violet Lefoot said. “Once I got into my group, I found a few friends, and I’ve had a good time here…. My Link Crew leaders were amazing: they were so nice and [told us] ‘we’re not going to make us seem bigger than you even though we are your higher classmen, we’re going to treat you like people, not babies.’ It was quite fun, and they were really cool.”

Advisers and student leaders gave pieces of advice for the new high schoolers that they feel have been a fundamental part of their experience in high school and life altogether. Booker reminds the incoming freshmen class, “If you fail, fail forward,” helping students understand failure is good as long as you can learn from it.

“I really hope that after everything we’ve been through with [COVID-19] and being socially distanced, not being able to hang out with people,” Valencia Mejia said, “that this year [the freshmen] really get involved with clubs and activities and make the best out of it because these are going to be the next four years of their life here at Valley.”