High Schools Welcome the Class of 2020

Student holds a Lincoln high school tee shirt.

A new student at Lincoln High School holds a t-shirt in anticipation of graduating in 2020.

The Class of 2020 – how’s that for a perfect vision of four years from now?

High school starts tomorrow for the latest batch of DMPS frosh and they’ve been receiving warm welcomes in the days leading up to their baptism at each of the district’s five comprehensive high schools.

Link Crew is a national organization that’s trained upperclassmen in more than 2,000 high schools across 44 states and a handful of foreign countries as mentors to incoming freshmen. For the second year in a row they’re coordinating a districtwide program of orientation for 9th graders here and Monday and Tuesday mornings it was Lincoln’s turn.

More than 600 brand new Railsplitters were halved and invited to the school’s 9th grade RAILS Academy building for half-day get-acquainted sessions aimed at easing the transition from middle school.

“More than 90% of our incoming freshmen attended these programs last year and we expect a similar number this time,” said Allyson Vukovich, the district’s Community Partnership Coordinator. She was sitting in the bleachers at RAILS watching Link Crew leaders put the newbies through some team-building paces on the gym floor. They were awkward at times, arranging themselves in line according to birth month or from shortest to tallest (“There are two rules: No talking and you cannot talk.”) but that’s really by design. It confronts the reality that everyone’s in the same boat and gives them a convenient excuse, direct orders, to do silly things like freeze hands together in high-five poses while exchanging greetings like “Howdy, partner!” with peers who, until that silly moment, were strangers to one another.

Carla Ruiz is a junior at Lincoln and one of the student leaders who was selected last spring for Link Crew. When she was a 9th grader she and her classmates in the Class of 2017 were thrown into the deep end.

“I think it would have helped to have something like this,” she said while waiting for her small group of mentees to assemble for some meet-and-greet-and-giggle games, like how they got their name (“My mom’s maiden name…pretty sure it was after a cartoon character…from the Bible, I think…I have no idea”) “It’s good to know that you’re not alone and not the only one who might be a little nervous,” Ruiz added.

Ruiz and the other Link Crew student leaders were clad in lime green t-shirts that were neither of Lincoln’s school colors (maroon and gold) but were conspicuous, just as they’re intended to be. In the first days of school this week they’ll stand out as beacons in the hallways at each of the high schools for bewildered rookies in need of directions or reassurance.

Nobody wants to brand themselves as THE scared freshman. At least nobody did Tuesday morning at RAILS. So the orientations cast everybody in that role and lets them pretend they have no choice while soaking up answers to the questions they were dying to ask but didn’t dare. When they walked in they got nametags. But they left with ID cards. Official ones that serve notice it’s finally happened: “I’m in high school now!” Plus a school/class t-shirt.

All that remains is to “doodley-doodley-do-it.”

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