Boardman High School ninth-grade science teacher Jaclyn Burke will be heading to San Diego next week for a retreat and the start of a new mission as a national Link Crew coach. She was selected as one of only 12 teachers across the United States to be a coach to other teachers involved in the Link Crew program.
"It is a great honor to be selected as a national coach because you travel around the United States teaching other teachers how to implement the Link Crew program in their school," said local Link Crew coach and BHS guidance counselor Bill Orr.
Link Crew is a freshman transition program where juniors and seniors are selected to work with freshmen, serving as mentors and friends. The partnership makes the first year high school experience less frightening and shows the freshman they have someone they can count on to care.
Photo by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Boardman High School staff members who coordinate the Link Crew program at the school include Jaclyn Burke, Bill Orr, Carrie Davis, and Julie Sturgiss. Burke was recently selected as one of 12 national Link Crew coaches who will be teaching other teachers this year.
Orr said the Link Crew program has been around for 20 years, but was introduced in Boardman three years ago. A similar program called WEB, or Where Everyone Belongs, has been implemented at the middle school level.
"These are unbelievable programs, which assign upperclassman to mentor and help the new students get acclimated to the school," Orr said.
When Boardman got involved with Link Crew, teachers Carrie Davis, Julie Sturgiss, and Orr formed the Link Crew coordinators. They attended a training seminar in Chicago where they learned how to run the Link Crew program. They brought that knowledge back to Boardman three years ago and the program took off. Roughly 80 juniors and seniors signed on to act as mentors to the freshmen.
"They are a diverse group," Burke said. "They come from band, drama club, sports, etc. And they are not necessarily all straight A students."
She said the upper classmen attend a training session over the summer, and then when school starts they are ready to serve as mentors to their first-year counterparts. Burke and Orr agree the program has a positive effect on Boardman and in all the schools operating a Link Crew program.
"The whole idea is to spread kindness throughout the school and serve as an introduction to high school life," Burke said. "We found it helps improve graduation rates and reduces discipline referrals. It also gives students who are not involved in anything else a place to be."
When the national Link Crew decided to open up its training for a dozen top-notch teachers to serve as national coaches (or trainers), Burke decided to apply. She filled out the paperwork, and then had to put together a five-minute video on the program at Boardman High School. The video showcased the success of the BHS Link Crew program. The video impressed the national Link Crew leaders enough to select Burke as one of the dozen.
"It was a true privilege and I am super excited," Burke said.
She said for one, she will get to attend a retreat at the end of this month where she will meet the other 11 teachers. They will be trained in how to train others across the nation. Once that is completed, Burke will travel to two different locations each year to help other schools and teachers get the program up and running.
Orr said while Burke has to travel to other schools for the training sessions, she will also bring that information back to Boardman. Details that may have been forgotten from three years ago can now be brought back to the forefront to make the BHS and middle school programs even more rewarding. Orr said it is an important tool in professional development that Boardman will have through the efforts of Burke.
"We are very happy for her," Orr said. "We are also grateful to have a national Link Crew coach right here in Boardman."