Mentor program making local high school "a better place"

Link Crew Mentor Program

IOWA, LA (KPLC) - Some local high school juniors and seniors are taking steps to ensure a better high school experience for lower classmen.

Four schools in the area have established Link Crew programs on campus. Jennings, South Beauregard, Westlake, DeQuincy, and Iowa High School all have this program, which aims to mentor and teach freshmen how to make good decisions and be the best person they can be.

"We get on that peer level that teachers can never get on," said Link Crew Commissioner LaShondra George.

That's the goal of the mentoring program. It matches a group of high school freshmen with junior and senior leaders. The leaders go into classrooms and teach lessons that include suspending judgement and time management.

"Even if somebody's not graduating with a 4.0 or wants to go to college, the lessons that we teach can be applied to any part of life," said Link Crew Commissioner Shelby Miller.  

George and Miller are both seniors at Iowa. As freshmen, the program didn't exist. But now, they're doing what they can to make a difference. George says the changes are obvious.

"They understand one another," said George. "Especially the bullying aspect. They finally have that in their head, oh wow, we were doing that?"

Leslie Gurley is a co-sponsor. She says it's great to see freshmen being reached, no matter size, shape, ethnic background or social stature.

"So often as a teacher, I see that there are some kids that are isolated, that they don't feel like anybody can understand them," said Gurley. "And by being set in a group, and it might not be a link leader that is there leader that is exactly like them, but we have one more method of contact with that isolated kid, so that they don't feel alone."

Freshmen teachers are also noticing a difference. Jason Foolkes teaches English to all freshmen at Iowa. He sees the transition from middle to high school as the largest obstacle for students.

"Going through the link crew process, it actually helps them with that transition, so then there's less fear of what's expected outside the classroom, in the hallways," said Foolkes. "They're able to focus more on what's expected in class."

Miller is quick to point out that the freshmen aren't the only ones affected.

"I understand that I have an influence on them, but they also have an influence on me," said Miller.  
Several other schools in the area are trained and ready to bring a Link Crew of their own to campus.

Gurley says those schools include Elton and Sulphur.  

The Iowa leaders also taught a lesson at Barbe this week, hoping to reach as many students as they can.

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