Getting a leg up on freshman year

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  • Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News Beloit Memorial High School teacher Andre De Kok gives freshmen students advice during orientation on Wednesday. He used a dollar in a presentation, showing the students that applying themselves is an investment in their future and not taking advantage of opportunities is throwing it away.

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    Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News(From left): Beloit Memorial High School Freshman Braden Chamberlain, Link Crew leader Arianna Smith and freshman Kiara Castro walk down the hall during freshman orientation on Wednesday. The Link Crew received $5,000 from AT&T to help the program which pairs juniors and seniors with incoming freshman.

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    Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News From left: Beloit Memorial High School teacher Sam Hoppe, teacher Heide Andre, teacher Andre De Kok, teacher Katie Randall, Principal Orlando Ramos, State Sen. Janis Ringhand (D-Evansville) and AT&T Regional Vice President of External Affairs Jim Jermain gather for a check passing at the high school on Wednesday. AT&T gave a $5,000 donation to the school's Link Crew program, which pairs incoming freshmen with junior and senior mentors.

  • Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News Beloit Memorial High School teacher Andre De Kok gives freshmen students advice during orientation on Wednesday. He used a dollar in a presentation, showing the students that applying themselves is an investment in their future and not taking advantage of opportunities is throwing it away.

  • 1

    Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News(From left): Beloit Memorial High School Freshman Braden Chamberlain, Link Crew leader Arianna Smith and freshman Kiara Castro walk down the hall during freshman orientation on Wednesday. The Link Crew received $5,000 from AT&T to help the program which pairs juniors and seniors with incoming freshman.

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    Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News From left: Beloit Memorial High School teacher Sam Hoppe, teacher Heide Andre, teacher Andre De Kok, teacher Katie Randall, Principal Orlando Ramos, State Sen. Janis Ringhand (D-Evansville) and AT&T Regional Vice President of External Affairs Jim Jermain gather for a check passing at the high school on Wednesday. AT&T gave a $5,000 donation to the school's Link Crew program, which pairs incoming freshmen with junior and senior mentors.

BELOIT - The Beloit Memorial High School Class (BMHS) of 2020 got a head start on success thanks to a little help from their friends. The Link Crew - junior and senior students who mentor freshman - met their new charges during freshman orientation on Wednesday and accepted a hefty donation.

The Link Crew instructed students on everything from the importance of getting involved to getting to their next class on time.

"I like Link Crew. They are relatable, and they tell you what you need to know," said BMHS Freshman Danasia Batchelor. "They've been there."

Between orientation festivities, AT&T provided a $5,000 donation to the program during a special check passing ceremony attended by teachers, AT&T Regional Vice President of External Affairs Jim Jermain, State Sen. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville, and students. Those in attendance recalled how transition to high school was bumpy, although critical to their success.

Jermain commended BMHS for having the Crew.

"This is such a great program and aligns with what AT&T's about," Jermain said. "We realize the importance of education, and are so excited to support this."

Jermain said AT&T has a long-standing commitment through the AT&T Aspire program to advance education and help young people be successful in school and their careers.

Ringhand, who said she came from an Evansville high school smaller in size than the BMHS freshman class, said BMHS is the only school in her district with such a program.

"It's such a benefit to help you over those rough first days," she said. "It's important to have that mentor because there are rough spots and tough days. We want your high school career to be a happy and successful one."

Principal Orlando Ramos and teacher and Link Crew Coordinator Heidi Andre said 96 juniors and seniors have been selected to be Link Crew leaders, responsible for helping students get off on the right start in their first year of high school.

On Monday and Tuesday the Link Crew leaders were trained. On Wednesday they were helping incoming freshmen with tours through the school and freshman orientation.

Student Jameson Hoey said each group of three Link Crew leaders will be matched with 15 freshman they will keep tabs on. They will put notes on their lockers, visit with them at three planned events including a cookout and encourage them whenever possible.

Link Crew Leader Arianna Smith said she was encouraging freshmen to be open-minded.

Link Crew Leader Sandra Aldama said her freshman year was great thanks to the organization, and she told the younger students to get involved in school and to stay on top of academics while having fun.

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