Published April 23, 2021
By ALICIA KRUEGER
Carmel High School’s Class of 2024 knew high school to be a series of Zoom links, Gmail notifications and Google Classroom assignments and assessments up until April 19, when students finally stepped foot onto campus. Nerves ran high that foggy morning, but with the help of the CHS Link Crew team and Leadership class, everyone made it through.
“We gave about 120 people a tour in, intentionally, really small groups of about eight people,” says Link Crew coordinator and Health teacher Leigh Cambra. “At the very least, I wanted kids to have a chance to know where their classes are and walk around a bit without a ton of chaos going on.”
Cambra asked sophomores, juniors and seniors involved with Link Crew or Leadership to wear bright red bucket hats on the first day of in-person school to signify that they were available to answer questions or point students to someone who could.
“Since I have been pretty isolated over this past year, I was nervous about who I would sit with at lunch and who I would hang out with,” notes freshman Lily Grundy, “but I found great people, and I’m not worried anymore. It helped me a ton on my first day to know people were there to help out, especially because I had no idea where to go.”
Normally, Cambra and her team of Link Crew coordinators would have already selected and be in the process of training next years’ leaders, allowing this year’s to move on in order to focus on ending the year. Because this year has been entirely different, Link Leaders had to adapt to constantly shifting plans.
“By last April, we felt comfortable with the Link Leaders we had, pre-loaded a bunch of training and really just got lucky that we happened to start super early last year anticipating we would be in-person,” says Link Crew coordinator Holly Lederle, the CHS photography teacher. “Everyone was super amped to do it and was really organized, but then we had to switch everything to Zoom, and no one signed up for that. The really great part of Link Crew is watching those leaders grow as they commit to putting themselves out there to try and get those freshmen to engage and participate, even if it’s over Zoom.”
Leaders were asked to try new COVID-19-safe tactics, like conducting Zoom meetings while simultaneously messaging students and encouraging them to participate, in order to connect with their group of about eight freshmen. Additionally, to create some familiarity online, Cambra arranged for students’ CHS Connect class to be with kids from their Link Crew group.
“One of my biggest takeaways from being a designated Link Leader throughout COVID-19 is how vital these next five weeks of in person school are going to be for building a good environment and community for the freshmen,” says junior Tristan Stahle. “In reality, for most of them, this is their first time on campus in a school setting and, therefore, they’re gaining their first impressions of what CHS is like in general.”
Cambra hopes to have a celebratory orientation on campus at the start of next year for all students to recognize the changes and disruptions everyone has had to experience. No official plans have been made to date.