Area schools open Monday, New program links EASD freshmen

By on August 24, 2016

It was a new school year with a new traffic pattern at Cocalico High School but the anticipation on the students’ faces is a tradition on the first day of classes.

With the cool air that finally arrived this week, came that realization that it’s almost time for the school bells to once again ring in the area.

Monday, Aug. 29 will indeed be opening day in both the Ephrata and Cocalico districts.

Freshmen in the Ephrata Area School District will be greeted with a new program this fall to help with their transition into high school.

Assistant high school principal Laura Mandell recently introduced Link Crew, a nationally-recognized high school program, to upper classmen and school board members.

“Link Crew is a transition program focused on supporting freshman socially, emotionally, and academically as they transition to high school,” Mandell said. “The most rewarding part of this program is that it is a student led structure. Junior and senior mentors work closely with a small group of freshman students for the entire school year.”

Beginning with the eighth grade report card packets, students found a “save the date” for the Link Crew orientation event Friday, Aug. 26.

The program focuses on inclusion of upperclassmen, staff and leaders throughout the school. After being rolled out to upper classmen late last year, over 60 juniors and seniors stepped forward to become Link Crew leaders to assist with an incoming freshman class of approximately 320 students.

Through Link Crew, the aim is to give students what they need to succeed: safety (physical), information (emotional) and connections (social).

Mandell said the net result is that school pride will improve, students will have a mentorship with upperclassmen as upperclassmen help them with their struggles surrounding transition and students become “imagineers.”

“They dream it and create it,” Mandell said. “Our junior and senior mentors have commented on how they wish a program like this existed for them when they started freshman year. Their engagement, excitement, and encouragement during a pre-training event was authentic and inspiring. These students will have an invaluable impact on our new freshman class.”

Rick Hornberger, assistant superintendent of secondary education, is just as enthusiastic about the new program as Mandell.

“Link Crew is another opportunity to help ninth grade students establish positive connections with other peers during a very important transition period,” said Hornberger. “We are always searching for ways to support our students, and Link Crew is a proven program that engages students in developing relationships and connections with junior and senior mentors along with their ninth grade peers.”

The program offers a new approach, not only to the way freshman classes are brought into high school, but the way in which classes navigate all four years of high school. It’s based on the following theory: the right information, in the right way, at the right time, from the right perspective (student).

Other local districts have already tried Link Crew; Warwick, ELCO and Lancaster Catholic, and it is well received.

One key component of Link is the social events created so that all students can participate. These can range from social outings to special discounts for Link Students, to academic follow ups to make sure that all students are consistently doing well emotionally, physically and academically.

“It is hopefully a year-long interaction between the link leaders and those in the groups,” said Mandell. “Students cannot hate someone whose story they know. You have to get to know the people you are around, get to know their name and their story.”

Slogans are also a big part of Link Crew because they also seem to help. Slogans such as “Challenge by Choice” or “Yes…and…” and “Own your Greatness.”

For additional information on Ephrata Area School District, visit

Gary P. Klinger is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review and welcomes your feedback via email at



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *