WEB program prepares students for Link Crew

June 6, 2010 — by Emily Williams

Commitment, enthusiasm and friendliness are just some of the qualities that guidance counselor Frances Saiki looks for when selecting Link Leader applicants, qualities that are also important in Redwood Middle School’s WEB program.

But Link Crew, which pairs upperclassman leaders to a group of eight to 10 freshmen, it is not many students’ first mentoring experience. Many current Link leaders and applicants participated in a similar program called WEB, or Where Everybody Belongs as 8th graders at Redwood Middle School. WEB trains student leaders to welcome in coming sixth graders at Redwood.

“We have always asked on the [Link] application why a student is interested in being a Link leader,” said Saiki. “More often than not I see responses of students saying [it is because of] their experience with WEB.”

Although Link and Web are not directly connected, they are very similar programs. Students’ training through Web is a great basis for the training they receive as Link leaders. According to senior Carolyn Chen, a Link Commissioner and former Web leader, most people who did Web in 8th grade also applied for Link unless they didn’t have time to do it. Those student leaders were consistent with helping the school, and it was easy to tell who they were.

Although the experience gained from Web is not necessary for Link, Web does provide students with confidence as a leader and experience helping out other students.

“Obviously with Web training, I’m hoping that [the students] know what it takes to be a good peer leader, mentor and advocate,” said Saiki. “If they learn these qualities through Web, I think that is a great quality to have. A combination of these qualities and their own experience and creativity is really powerful.”

The positive, encouraging attitude that Saiki looks for in Link Leaders is also valued and fostered in the WEB program.

Many of the tactics and games used to connect to freshmen are employed by WEB leaders as well with incoming sixth graders because WEB and Link are so similar.

“(In WEB) you learn to be receptive and friendly to sixth graders,” said Chen. “It’s the same concept when you come up to high school; we are all a level matured, but it’s still the same. You have to be really outgoing and friendly to them. Once you’re warm to them, they’ll open up to you.”

The preparation as a leader through the Web program proves a great basis for Link Leaders to build from. Saiki hopes that students who have been through both programs will be able to bring suggestions from their experiences as a freshmen and Web leaders, combining the best of both trainings to provide the most welcoming environment for freshmen.

“We do value the experience that students had from Redwood and from being on Web,” said Saiki. “We would love to have those suggestions more and more to incorporate in our Link Crew. We have always been open to that.”

This idea of combining the best of both programs and using past leadership experiences is helping to improve the Link program every year, but in some cases, even past experience can’t help student leaders. The program has received mixed reviews from freshmen this year and years past; some students form close bonds with their Link Leaders and greatly benefit from the experience, while others say it was a waste of time.

“I think the WEB orientation wasn’t as organized as the Link orientation, but we had more events and the Link crew doesn’t do much after the beginning of the year,” said freshman Maya Nag. “I think we had more interest in 6th grade because we needed more help.”

The programs, although geared toward helping incoming students, also benefit the leaders throughout their life. The confidence and leadership students learn in Web helps them throughout their high school experience.

“With Web and Link you get to see all these different personalities and learn how to reach out to them,” said Chen. “It helps transitioning into ninth grade when you get to meet all these new people, since not everyone is from Redwood. I feel like I could deal with situations with different people that I met better. I think it also helps your confidence as a leader in other endeavors in your life.”

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