Days and weeks into the new school year, the welcoming blue Link Crew shirt kept kids coming to me for questions. There were ones who were nervous to approach someone new; I could see they needed help, and soon I’d be sending them off in the right direction to their classes. From then on they would see me in the halls and know that someone was always there to help. I joined Link Crew because, as a younger brother, I knew all my older brother’s friends, and having upperclassmen that you can talk to and relate to is an experience I won’t easily forget. When going through the halls I would see so many familiar faces, and I never worried that I could be alone amongst such a large student body. That feeling is why I joined Link Crew my junior year, so I could share it with all the other freshmen who didn’t have all the connections to people in a brand new environment.
Link Crew, if you haven’t heard the news, is shutting down. What will happen to the wonderful Mix It Up days and study sessions before finals? Cocoa and Cram used to bring hordes of students together into the library in a light, cozy atmosphere, but this year, the recently renamed Snack and Study brought in an underwhelming 14 students. It’s disappointing. What is the reason for this? What happened to Link Crew to bring on such a demise? What it really comes down to is funding—or the lack of it. Pam Garrett has been the prominent leader running Link Crew for many years, but she can’t run it without funding. She would apply for grants to fund Link Crew every year, keeping it alive, and receiving about $1,500 each year. That’s enough to cover the t-shirts, orientation and Link Leader training, and the multitude of events that Link Crew puts on. Last year however, the administration addressed the situation on Link Crew’s importance. They recognized that it should have a yearly salary so Garrett wouldn’t have to keep signing up for all the grants, and what the budget provided was $500 annually to fund the program. Although Principal Juanita Valder did begin to pay for the t-shirts (a large part of what the budget was normally spent on), the budget is not nearly enough to keep a strong program in place. This also made it so Garrett could not apply for those grants that kept Link Crew afloat in the first place.
So this year, with all the obstacles that have come upon Link Crew, Garrett has made the decision to not teach the class next year, but instead to teach Reading and Writing for Change, a senior English class. “[There’s just] no easy answers sometimes,” says Garrett. “If I kept doing Link Crew, I would never have the space in my schedule to do that.” She isn’t the only one capable of running Link Crew however; other staff at Franklin have gone through the proper training to teach the program. But with Garrett stepping down and instead choosing to teach another English Class, no other teacher has taken her position, nor has the administration assigned anyone to fill the gap, cutting Link Crew from forecasting and Franklin as a whole.
A survey of 45 freshmen from their English classes showed what their perspective on Link Crew was this year. About half of surveyors were aware that Link Crew is ending this year, a fact that has not and may not be announced to the Franklin community. One third expressed that Link Crew was helpful at the start of the year to lead the tours and explain what high school was like from an upperclassman, giving them extra support at the start of the year. Aside from that, Link Crew had not impacted them since, portraying the lack of funding to put on more events, and restrictions on getting the event information out to the students. When asked with how losing this program would impact the community, answers varied from “no impact” to a harder adjustment and settling into high school for freshmen, with them not knowing what to expect. When prompted with what they thought would come in to replace Link Crew, the overwhelming answer was well, Link Crew, but under a different name. Some ideas revolved around a lesser scaled version of the program, or one without assigned leaders. To many of these questions, the freshmen numerously answered with, “I don’t know,” and frankly neither do we.
Now what? Are freshmen just going to come into high school cold? No introduction or knowledge from experienced students will leave Franklin’s new generation missing something. Although we don’t know yet what will replace Link Crew (if anything does), it’s a loss for Franklin as a community. Link Leader Michael Noinola (11) still remembers his entire Link Crew group, something not many upperclassmen can recite off the top of their heads. “I joined Link Crew because I believed having a student leader who you could come to whenever you needed something was important,” Noinola expresses. “I wanted to be a leader to my kids, like my leaders were to me. I can remember everyone in my Link Crew group, my own kids, and my other classmates. It’s just really unfortunate that Link Crew is ending.”
Link Crew brought together the classes, helping to break the barriers of age and grade differences. With so many students in Franklin, we ought to have countless friends outside of our own grade, but sometimes it is hard to do so. No matter what, past Link Crew leaders and ideally the whole student body will continue to represent Franklin by supporting the generations of students and welcoming them to a fun and exciting high school life. One anonymous freshman captured the simplicity of the situation: “We could replace Link Crew with the idea that all upperclassmen will help incoming students feel welcome. Not just be welcoming to their friends.”