By Hasti Ghasemi Vaghar, Current Staff
Incoming ninth graders at the West Bend High Schools were surprised in September to discover that their first-day activities were being led by juniors and seniors rather than teachers.
Last spring a new club called CREW was established to allow upperclassman leaders help ninth graders transition into high school. CREW members are assigned to each ninth grade homebase and spend certain days guiding the new students and making their ninth grade year a positive experience. Most CREW meetings take place every other Friday during resource time.
Each session is dedicated to a specific lesson in which the upperclassmen share their experiences in high school regarding that topic and provide advice and useful tips that will allow the freshmen to incorporate some of these helpful habits into their daily routine. CREW also plans to host events to make school an exciting place.
So far, CREW has been in charge of the annual open house and Frosh Fest. However, a new event that was added to this year’s calendar was the ninth grade orientation, which took place on the first day of school. The orientation was dedicated to welcoming the ninth graders and ensuring that they became familiar with the building before starting their class schedules. This allowed the CREW mentors to meet with their assigned groups and go through different activities such as enjoying ice breakers, touring important places in the school, giving the ninth graders the opportunity to walk their schedules, providing assistance in setting up school Chromebooks, and having Jay Gross, an inspiring guest speaker, start off the year with positive energy.
Many ninth graders reported that the orientation was beneficial.
“I definitely felt more prepared,” East ninth grader Mackenna Steiner said. “I was a little more familiar with (the school) and it definitely wasn’t as scary.”
Initially, the idea of CREW was introduced by Laura Jennaro, assistant principal at West High School. When she started working in West Bend, she realized that the transition from middle school to high school in a big building like WBHS was not very effective and the importance of this transition was neglected at the time. Jennaro wanted to create something to make this transition easier and connect the underclassmen with helpful resources and people.
Jennaro reached out to some of her friends that did a version of CREW in different districts and since then, she and the other CREW advisors have been working together to get it going.
“Because we are so big sometimes I think you get lost in the sea of people, so we want to make sure that everyone is seen and everyone feels that sense of belonging and that they know people that they can connect to and get help from,” Jennaro said.
Although all of the goals for ninth grade orientation were accomplished and the event was overall successful, the CREW advisers feel there is room for improvement. According to Danielle Woodall, an East English teacher and CREW adviser, the group is planning in the future to have orientation day when only ninth graders and CREW members are in the building. This will potentially make the transition easier and less intimidating.
To be a CREW member means “to be a good leader and a good role model,” East junior and CREW member Morgan Rasmussen said.
Being looked upon as high school leaders, it’s important for the upperclassmen to set a good example for the ninth graders. CREW leaders share their high school experiences, whether good or bad, and provide advice so that they can guide the new students in the right way and assure that they won’t make the same mistakes as they did. They seek to build a friendly relationship with the ninth graders and always be there for them, even for the littlest things.
(Top image: During an open house, CREW members (left to right) Jan Lanser, Diego Prescott and Willow Prost explain the important information that ninth graders and their parents need to know before the start of school. Photo courtesy of Laura Jennaro.)