On the first day of school for the Anchorage School District, Bartlett High School did something no other school in the district has ever done before. 

"We had some teachers go to some training last year to learn how to link our upperclassman mentors with our incoming freshman," Bartlett Principal Sean Prince said. "That's different from the past because prior to school starting we'd have orientation that would capture 100 to 150 students out of like 400."

With so many students missing out of critical information and guidance, the school decided to try something new. 

"We thought if we could restructure the first day," Prince said. "And have all of our freshmen come, all 432 of them, we'd be able to link them into our school and show them what Bartlett is all about."

The students arrived on the first day of school and were ushered into the theater. The students also received help with class lists, finding classrooms and placed with special "Link crew mentors." 

Link Crew is a high school transition program that welcomes freshmen and makes them feel comfortable throughout the first year of their high school experience. The mentoring program is built on the belief that students can help students succeed. Two teachers, Rebecca Vano and Asher Harley went to training in California to learn more about the program. 

"It was several days of training," Rebecca Vano said. 'It prepared us for this nationwide project called Link Crew. We have been working since last April to get this thing going. It's been a lot of work we've put in and so have the kids."

Eighty-five juniors and seniors gave up their Thursday and Friday last week to come to the school for all-day training with the teachers. The students are now "link leaders" and peer mentors at Bartlett High School. Throughout the year, these young mentors will look over groups of 10 to 12 freshman. Two link leaders will be assigned to each group and check in periodically with the freshman on grades, activities, sports and gain an overall feel for Bartlett High School.

They'll also talk with teachers and check in on things like attendance," Prince said. "The frantic pace of coming to high school is always set up to be, 'I show up, I get my locker and then, where do I go?' They don't know the building. By doing it this way as we expect to do over the foreseeable future, it will allow the students to come in, get their schedule, meet with some people who are key in their life, establish an upperclassman, then they'll know the school without the pressure of searching for classes and meeting teachers. It helps relieve that grind."

The thought of starting the program was received with open arms.

"Just everybody, as soon as I started asking about it and we had the funds for it, everybody was on board," Vano said. "It's great, you can hear the excitement. Our kids here have the biggest hearts. They are our link leaders and they are ready to go. The Anchorage School District has been extremely supportive along with our principal Mr. Prince."

The entire student body will show up on Tuesday.

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