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BACK IN SCHOOL: Seventh-graders Jason Harbine, foreground, and Jared Wilson write down clues during a scavenger hunt Tuesday that helped students familiarize themselves with the La Grande MIddle School. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).
BACK IN SCHOOL: Seventh-graders Jason Harbine, foreground, and Jared Wilson write down clues during a scavenger hunt Tuesday that helped students familiarize themselves with the La Grande MIddle School. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Freshman orientation activities at La Grande High School were a hit with many students on Tuesday.

Just ask freshman Cody Drey.

Drey used one of his generation's highest praise words to express his enthusiasm for the activities.

"They were rad!'' Drey said with a gleam in his eye.

‘Rad' means excellent in the jargon of many teen-agers.

The orientation day was conducted via the Link Crew program. Groups of eight to 10 freshmen were led by juniors and seniors. The upper classmen, selected by teachers, introduced students to LHS and made every effort to make them feel welcome and relaxed. To promote a spirit of camaraderie, all groups donned costumes.

The LHS freshmen concluded the day by attending 10-minute introductions to each of their classes.

Meanwhile, less than a quarter mile away, seventh-graders at La Grande Middle School were also going through an orientation program, a day before the eighth-graders arrived.

"It gave them a chance to really get acclimated without total confusion,'' LMS counselor Mary Lu Pierce said.

Following is a more detailed look at orientation day activities at LHS and LMS.

La Grande High School

This is the second year LHS has used the Link Crew program as part of its orientation. The program is designed to do more than help freshmen the first few days of school. It is also meant to give freshmen a chance to make contact with an upperclassman they can go to for help throughout the school year, said LHS teacher and activities director Andrea Waldrop.

Waldrop and Chelsee Rohan, an LHS guidance counselor, are the advisers for Link Crew. The program is based on a national model.

"When students make a connection in school they will be more successful,'' Waldrop said.

Waldrop said she has seen the juniors and seniors helping with the program make great strides after assuming leadership roles.

"They do an awesome job,'' Waldrop said. "We are doing this for the freshmen but I sometimes wonder who benefits the most, the freshmen or the juniors and seniors.''

Link leaders, all selected by teachers, received eight hours of training. The leaders included senior Courtneay Hitchon.

"I enjoy getting to know them (freshmen) personally and helping them become more confident,'' Hitchon said.

She said that the program will help keep freshmen from feeling intimidated by upper classmen.

Freshman Mitch Johnson has a similar sentiment.

"It gives you a good feeling about the older students,'' Johnson said.

Freshmen K.C. Frye also felt good about the program.

"It was really cool. It made me feel comfortable,'' Frye said.

La Grande Middle School

About 200 seventh-graders were helped during their orientation by 60 eighth-graders who served as student guides. The eighth-graders had been trained by Pierce. She vividly recalls how many of the guides were nervous seventh-graders a year ago who lacked confidence.

"I'm so proud of the job they have done and how much they have grown,'' Pierce said.

LMS science teacher Jerry Mayes believes Tuesday's orientation day will help the first week of school run more smoothly. He explained that it is easier for seventh-graders to learn about things like how to use their lockers in an orientation- day atmosphere.

Mayes said that before LMS started its orientation program some students would be late for class the first week of school because of locker problems.

Sandy Woodward, an English and social studies teacher, said orientation day has a positive impact for months to come.

"It sets the tone for the whole year,'' Woodward said. "...(The seventh-graders) are in a non- threatening situation and having fun.''

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