From the fence surrounding Wayne Schneider Stadium, Gualco showed the freshmen — dressed as pink and white jellyfish — where the Dog Pound student cheering section sits during home football games.
More than 550 freshmen will be among the 2,100 students expected for the first day of school at Tracy High on Monday, Aug. 12.
“This is the best year to come in, because we have so much new stuff,” Gualco told the freshmen as they continued their tour.
The Link Crew matches junior and senior volunteers with groups of freshmen to help them during the first year of high school. The program has been going on at Tracy High for about 18 years.
Upperclassmen keep in touch with the freshmen during the entire year and join them at special events, including rallies and sporting events.
Gualco, who joins more than 100 juniors and seniors in Link Crew this year, still remembers his first uncertain steps three years ago.
“When I was a freshman, I was really scared on the first day of school — I really stuck to the Link Crew training,” he said. “It helped. That’s why I did it this year for the kids.”
Principal Jason Noll said the partnership between the upper and lower classes helps ease anxieties about freshman year.
“Some of them have probably heard horror stories about the seniors,” Noll said. “Here, they get to see it’s about having fun and enjoying your high school career.”
Freshmen entered Bill Swenson Gymnasium for orientation Monday between rows of cheering Link Crew members wearing gold shirts.
Xenia Ceja, a senior in her second year on Link Crew, welcomed the underclassmen.
“We are here to introduce them to their family for the next four years,” Ceja said. “We are so spirited, when the freshmen come in and we’re cheering for them, it makes them want to get more involved.”
Ceja remembers being worried when she walked into the gym as a freshman.
“We are there for them the whole year. We already know everything they are going to go through,” she said. “I try to be comforting — we try to open them up to everything. They need to stop acting cool and have fun.”
During orientation, the freshman class was separated into 10-person teams — each with a theme and matching costumes — and assigned to two Link Crew members for the year.
The groups spent time playing icebreaker games and learning names before heading out on a tour.
By the end, freshman Megan Greenhaw felt reassured and even excited about the first day of school.
“It helped how they showed me around — I know where all my classes are,” she said. “I was nervous at first, but I got more comfortable. I was nervous I didn’t know anybody.”
Link Crew members will wear their gold shirts on Monday, answering questions and helping freshmen find their classrooms.
Freshman Carlee Johnson said she felt better about starting high school after the orientation and tour.
“I was nervous about how big it was and whether I was going to do good in school,” she said. “I liked the games and getting to know people.”
West High also had a Link Crew freshman orientation on Tuesday, Aug. 6, for an incoming class of about 535 students. Kimball High hosted a Kimball Mentors program in July for about 600 members of its new freshman class.
Tracy High activities director Alayna Carter has overseen the Link Crew program for the past 13 years and has seen the difference it makes for freshmen.
“They start off the year on a positive note, knowing that the older upperclassmen care about them,” Carter said. “To know that they have help through the year is a comforting way to start your school career.”
• Contact Glenn Moore at 830-4252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.