Program gives Lake Stevens High sophomores exclusive welcome

LAKE STEVENS — Like a wave, it started as a ripple and ended in a roar.

Hundreds of students flooded the hallways of Lake Stevens High School on Wednesday morning on their first day of the new school year. The 609-person strong sophomore class was welcomed by about 75 Link Crew leaders, upperclassmen chosen to guide new students through their first day of high school.

The sophomores entered the halls with hesitant steps and hushed conversations that gradually gave way to cheers and clapping as teachers, administrators and Link Crew leaders challenged them to loosen up and make themselves at home. Link Day was a chance for sophomores, the youngest class at Lake Stevens High School, to learn the layout of the campus and to discover their Viking spirit before 1,200 juniors and seniors join them Thursday.

A raucous 24-person drumline and 15 high-energy cheerleaders greeted the 10th-graders as buses dropped them off in front of the school. The students walked down a hallway lined with teachers who waved signs with their names and offered high-fives as the crowd passed. In the gym, an assembly mixed dancing, stretching, cheering and a nearly 700-person game of Simon Says. Then came small group activities for Link Crew leaders and their charges, followed by lunch, tours and a shortened class schedule so students could find their classrooms and meet their teachers.

“This is all about making them feel comfortable so when they come back tomorrow with all the other students they know where they’re going,” Link Crew adviser and career specialist Kim LaFortune said. “It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my career.”

Many Snohomish County high schools have Link Crew programs. Lake Stevens started its program three years ago. Shaelyn Huot and Ryann Funk, now seniors, were part of the first sophomore class to be welcomed by the program. Now they are Link Crew leaders.

“I was really scared when I came into high school as a sophomore and this whole Link Day gave me a sigh of relief,” Funk said. “It’s fun to come back to something like this. This school is one of the best, and Viking pride is the greatest.”

Huot remembers feeling comfortable after her Link Day a couple of years ago. She wants to pay it forward and let new students know that Lake Stevens High School is a family and they always have someone to turn to.

“I feel like communication is key with this because if sophomores feel comfortable this year they’re more likely to do well all of their years,” she said.

Lake Stevens was one of five districts in the county to start school this week. Granite Falls, Mukilteo, Northshore and Stanwood-Camano students also are back in class. Everett, Edmonds, Marysville, Monroe, Arlington, Snohomish, Lakewood, Sultan, Darrington and Index schools start next week.

The first day of school is an important time, Lake Stevens High School Principal Eric Cahan told his students Wednesday morning. He urged sophomores to close their eyes and picture who they want to be after high school.

“This is a special day because this is the day all those dreams start,” he said.

Heading into the new school year, Link leader Huot was excited. She’ll miss sleeping in on summer mornings but can’t wait for her AP Physics class or the upcoming tennis season.

She had one key piece of advice to share with every student heading back to school this week or next.

“Try new things,” Huot said. “Don’t leave anything you might want to do undone. Just do it. Now’s the time, so get out of your comfort zone and stretch a little bit.”

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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