LIGONIER — The 220 classmates of the West Noble High School Class of 2023 were ushered into their high school careers Monday during the Link Crew Games, a series of large-group activities designed to demonstrate leadership, team-building and connecting the students with each other.

Forty juniors and seniors, decked out in bright green T-shirts, volunteered their time for summer training for this first-ever event at West Noble. They will serve as mentors and group leaders for the school year with 20 small groups of freshmen. The upperclassmen will receive additional training during the year in a shared homeroom.

Assistant principal Chad Wilson, microphone in hand, told freshmen that they can choose what type of high school experience they will have. He said there are three types of students coming into high school: Those who are invested in school, always involved and who make things happen; those who watch things happen by attending events; and those who are not invested in school, who don’t make an effort and often don’t care about their experience. Wilson urged students to take their studies seriously and get involved in whatever extracurricular activities interested them.

The Link Crew Games included a balloon-popping challenge, which required two students to work together, back-to-back, to pop a balloon. Another challenge had students lining up on the gym floor with their leaders, then organizing themselves by height, tallest to shortest — without talking.

Wilson took that challenge to next level with a more difficult task, telling the students to organize themselves by the month and day of their birthdays — again without talking. Students quickly developed a system of hand signals to communicate.

“Birds and Perches” was the last challenge. Pairs of students circled the gym, with the inner circle the “birds” and the outer circle the “perches.” The “birds” moved around the circle, introducing themselves to the “perches” whenever Wilson told them to stop “flying” and land.

Wilson said two Link Crew leaders, a boy and girl, are assigned to each small group of freshmen. The small-group meetings will continue for the entire school year. Wilson said the leaders bring a variety of experiences to the table.

“They are a diverse group,” he said. “Some have after-school jobs, some are in sports, band, choir, theater. Some are tutors.” He believes the diversity makes it easier for leaders and freshmen to find common ground.

Wilson, assistant principal at the high school for two years, said Link Crew is a new program for West Noble, which is only the second school system in Indiana to use it. The program is based on two belief systems: first, that students who are involved in school do better, and second, that small group connections are solution-based. Small-group discussions can address problems and barriers with an eye on a positive attitude and how to overcome the challenge.

Wilson hopes Link Crew changes the school culture to one where students want to come to school. He is looking to the freshmen to carry the program forward the next four years, when they eventually become the mentors for younger students.

Wilson will measure Link Crew’s success by aiming for overall better attendance, improvement in graduation rates and a decrease in bullying behaviors.

Link Crew leaders are:

Group 1: Bailey Kilgore, Skyla Hernandez

Group 2: Brogan Jones, Bergen Tom

Group 3: Brockton Miller, Jenna Hutsell

Group 4: Dan Moreno, Lilly Mast

Group 5: Brandon Pruitt, Thalia Parson

Group 6: Raven Slone, Adamaris Silva

Group 7: Joel Mast, Tressa Hodge

Group 8: Jesse Leos, Allison Baker

Group 9: Isaac Porter, Vianai Herrera

Group 10: Madison Doege, Shuli Sheeley

Group 11: Brian Flores. Yarency Murillo

Group 12: Dillan Sumowski, Sammantha Carrizales

Group 13: Logan Sumoski, Isel Herrera

Group 14: Kyle Mawhorter, Alexandra Casteneda

Group 15: Gustavo Taylor, Olivia McDonald

Group 16: Beatrice Hasting, Riley Champion, Andrew Shaw

Group 17: Wayne Hagerman, Audrey Taylor

Group 18: Megan Wallen, Taytlynn Forrer

Group 19: Hunter Saggars, Lauren Baker

Group 20: Thomas Sheeley, Nina Teel

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