On Monday, about 75 juniors and seniors voluntarily returned to Pendleton High School a day early.
They didn’t have any classes to attend or assignments to turn in; instead, the upperclassmen were on campus as members of Link Crew, a student mentoring club.
Hundreds of freshman descended on the PHS campus to acquaint themselves with high school life a day before the rest of their classmates joined them. Link Crew was called in to help.
The incoming freshmen played games and listened to an assembly in the morning before transitioning to an accelerated school schedule in the afternoon, moving from class to class to meet their new teachers.
In between, Link Crew held a barbecue in the auditorium breezeway where Link Crew members got a chance to further ingratiate themselves with their mentees.
Social studies instructor Stu Clem has taught at Pendleton High School for more than 30 years and has helped oversee Link Crew since it was started 20 years ago.
After joking that he never expected that food services would be a part of his job, Clem remarked that the freshman class was big this year.
Clem said there were 270 freshmen this year, a significant increase over the 207-freshmen average established last year.
That means there’s a lot of work to do for senior Mazie Jackson and the rest of the Link Crew.
Mazie remembers what it was like to be a freshman, concerned about where to find specific classes in the multi-story facility and how to keep grades up.
She brings some of those memories with her when she’s participating in Link Crew, and this year, she’s been promoted to one of the club’s four directors.
Mazie will spend the year pairing Link Crew members with freshmen and organizing Link Crew events for the first-year students to attend.
Clem said what made the Pendleton Link Crew unique is that it’s a year-round effort rather than an organization that revolves around the first day of school before disbanding.
Link Crew will meet with freshmen again on Wednesday, where they will sit in small groups to gather input on the first few days and share advice.
The club will continue to stay involved with the freshman by holding monthly events where first-year students with perfect attendance, strong grades or some other achievement are recognized and awarded a prize.
Mazie said the consistent Link Crew provides a presence, allowing her and the rest of the Link Crew members to keep track of the freshmen and finish the school year strong.
Clem said the hope was that the year-round Link Crew contributed toward Pendleton High School’s 94.7 percent graduation rate.
In an effort to maintain strong graduation scores, Link Crew convened the freshmen in the high school gym, where the club lined up the students and had them shake Principal Melissa Sandven’s hand and promise her that they would graduate in 2022.
This was Sandven’s first day with students after she was hired to replace Dan Greenough, who resigned at the end of the last school year.
A former administrator at Rainier Junior/Senior High School with administrative experience in Gresham, Portland, Sandy, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, Sandven clasped each child’s hand as they moved through the queue, occasionally reminding them of her name and to recite which year they intended to graduate in.
Sandven said she was impressed by the level of organization that went into the freshman orientation and went over some of her own goals for the 2018-2019 school year.
She aims to build trust and unity among staff members, and although she didn’t want to say there was a sense of discord last year, Sandven added that there was a sense that teachers wanted more support this year.
Sandven also wants to revamp Professional Learning Communities, after-school professional development meetings where teachers can meet with each other, so that teachers come away from them with tangible results.
“They’ll see me everyday,” she said. “I’m not in my office all the time.”
After meeting Sandven, the students left the gym to either test out their locker or wait for transportation at the front of the building.
Testing out of their lockers, freshmen Jamie Gau and Kenzie Whaley gave the orientation positive reviews, saying they liked the games they played during the morning.
For the pair and the rest of the freshmen, the fun and games will give way to real school on Tuesday.
Contact Antonio Sierra at email@example.com or 541-966-0836.