Sophomores get fed hot dogs and tour the campus with Link Crew leaders since they only had an online orientation last year

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Rebekah Kim

Link Crew leaders senior Alyssa Galvez (left) and junior Ellie Kim (right) hand out hot dogs to sophomores Andy Aguirre (left) and Maximiliano Soto (right) at the Sophomore Welcome BBQ held Wednesday, Aug. 11, in the quad.

Kate Yang

Since Link Crew was first organized on campus five years ago, its aim has been to train juniors and seniors to become mentors, role models and leaders who guide freshmen along their transition to high school. 

And so since then, the upperclassmen who comprise Link Crew have organized the freshman orientation to welcome incoming ninth-graders before the year begins. They would not return with their signature blue T-shirts until the first day of school, where they helped ease the new freshmen’s first days by acting as a cushion of support or being able to direct them to the right classrooms.

But the 130 Link Crew leaders for this school year worked overtime after the Aug. 6 freshman orientation that started in the gym, returning the next week on Wednesday, Aug. 11, to host a Sophomore Welcome BBQ in the quad from 11 a.m to 1 p.m. Link Crew leaders handed out hot dogs, chips and drinks to 10th-graders in attendance, while greeting them and walking the campus and eating lunch together on the grass with picnic blankets in the quad. 

“I think this event was a lot more straight to the point,” Link Crew leader senior Patrick Jimenez said. “There were not that many activities; rather, it was just getting to know them and showing them our campus.”

Jimenez joined Link Crew as a junior and virtually attended the freshman orientation held last year via Zoom.

“Last year’s freshman orientation was definitely different and a bit awkward,” he said. “Our games and activities last year had to be changed and didn’t go as successfully as we had planned for them to go.”

With assistant principal Sarah Murrietta’s help, Link Crew co-advisers Cristian Bueno and Lindsay Safe came up with the idea sometime in April to host an event before the school year started just for sophomores.   

Unlike the freshman orientation in which students dispersed into groups and participated in team exercises, Link Crew decided to make the Sophomore Welcome BBQ a more laid-back, easygoing event for the close to 190 sophomores who attended.  

“I’m just glad that [Link Crew] felt the need to include us,” said sophomore Cammeron Kim. “I feel well-introduced to the school now, especially because the juniors and seniors reassured us that they are here whenever we need them.”

Kim initially only attended because his friends convinced him to tag along; however, after experiencing something close to the freshman orientation he missed out on last year, he feels thankful to not only the Link Crew leaders, but also to his friends for bringing him. 

“Now I definitely know where some classes are, thanks to the juniors and seniors,” he said.

Link Crew followed all of the safety guidelines when cooking and serving the food — cooks wore masks and gloves — and did not require masks for their students; however, Kim kept his mask on throughout the entire event, except for when eating lunch. 

“Personally, I just didn’t want to contract or spread the virus,” said Kim, who received the Pfizer vaccine. “And I felt like there was a strong effort from the students to wear masks, although the masks were off when people were sitting down, eating.”

Sophomore Jesus Rivera, who has yet to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, also kept his mask on throughout the entire event, except for when eating, to minimize his chances of getting infected. 

“I was just worried that I might catch [COVID-19] again like when I had it back in December,” Rivera said. “And I don’t know how many other people aren’t vaccinated yet, so I wanted to stay safe.”

Aside from his safety concerns, he said he enjoyed meeting his friends again and experiencing the Link Crew welcome that he only attended through a screen last year. 

Now I definitely know where some classes are, thanks to the juniors and seniors”

— sophomore Jesus Rivera

I learned a little bit more about the school’s culture and enjoyed meeting new people from my grade,” Rivera said. “I think it made up for the freshman orientation we missed out on last year because I got to see my friends and have fun.”

From his past experience with school events in middle school, Rivera expected there to be a lot less of a turnout but found to his surprise that many of his peers showed up. 

“I was a bit overwhelmed because I spent a lot of time inside this year, so it was weird to see so many people,” he said. “I was a little nervous at first because I didn’t think there would be anyone here, but thankfully I was with my friends and had a great time.” 

Despite the turnout, Safe doubts that Link Crew will host an event specifically for the sophomores again in the years to come. 

“This year, our freshmen got the full Link Crew freshman orientation from start to finish,” she said. “I don’t foresee us doing another sophomore welcome because those freshmen have already been welcomed.”

Link Crew designed the event to help sophomores familiarize themselves with the school culture they missed out on during the height of the pandemic, and more than anything, Safe wanted the students to walk away feeling included and a part of the Sunny Hills community.

“I told some [Link Crew leaders] at the start that if this turns into nothing more than you sitting down talking and having lunch with some sophomores, that is all that matters to me,” she said. “You made a connection, and we do our best to reach one student.”

Sophomore Daniella Chekardzhikova was one of those students. 

“The BBQ had so many kind link crew members, which definitely made me feel less nervous about starting school here next week,” Chekardzhikova said. “They made me feel so welcomed.”