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Upperclassmen mentor younger students

August 16, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - It used to be the "big green giant."

That was Joseph Bender's nickname for South Hagerstown High School when he arrive as a freshman. Now a 17-year-old senior, Joseph still calls the school a "giant," but is hoping to help younger students transition from middle school into "big green."

He is one of many students in Washington County mentoring younger students in every middle and high school in the county.

The program, Link Crew, is at county high schools, and is one of two similar initiatives to help younger students transition into their new schools, said Carol Costello, supervisor of alternative programs and student services. Where Everybody Belongs (WEB), at county middle schools, pairs eight-graders with incoming sixth-graders.

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This is the second year the programs have been in place. Every school except South High participated last year.

Student leaders participated in training this week, and will meet younger students during an orientation session Tuesday - the day before school begins for students.

Xavier Richardson, 16, said that making the adjustment from middle school to high school is difficult.

"High school is a lot bigger," the South High junior said. "There are a lot of new faces you don't know."

Xavier and other student mentors will meet younger students before school begins and answer any questions they have. He said he hopes that will make freshmen less nervous about going to high school.

"I wish we had something like this when I first got here," Joseph said.

Coming from E. Russell Hicks Middle School, he said that South High with about 1,300 students was a lot bigger.

"It's a new atmosphere," Joseph said. "Even the kids ... the kids are bigger."

Kayla Gerhold, a South High senior who also attended E. Russell Hicks, said high school was a drastic change.

"I remember walking in and being scared out of my mind," she said.

Last year's WEB and Link Crew not only helped students feel more comfortable in their new schools, it also had positive impacts on attendance and grades, Costello said. Disciplinary referrals also were down, she said.

Costello said that student leaders will be in contact with younger students throughout the year.




Here is some advice from upperclassmen at South Hagerstown High School to incoming freshmen:

"Look forward to coming to school."

- Xavier Richardson, junior

"Get good grades. Stay on the right path."

- Joseph Bender, senior

"Keep your old friends because they know you best, but make lots of new ones."

- Sarah Burgan, senior

"Don't try to be anyone but yourself."

- David Etheridge, junior

"Don't get caught up in the drama."

- Tayvon Holman, senior

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