Return to Headlines

Facing History connects 9th-graders with older students




Juniors and seniors from 10 school districts, including the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, participated in Link Crew team building exercises Thursday at CMSD's East Professional Center.  Link Crew is a nationwide student leadership program focusing on peer mentoring for incoming freshmen.

"The transition to high school is extremely hard for all students, and for those transferring to a new school, it is extremely hard,” said Kristin Rorapaugh, Facing History New Tech High School math teacher and Link Crew coordinator.  “Some could feel like they don’t have a friend when they walk into a brand-new school, so it's really important for our students to have that friend and have that person that they can turn to when they have a question.”

Indigo, a Link Crew senior, remembers all too well what it felt like to be a new student at Facing History New Tech. She says having an upper classman as a mentor really helped her adjust, and it's the reason she wants to help others.

"I was very scared to be in high school, and now I am a way different person than I was in ninth grade,” Indigo said. “ I didn't talk at all during middle school. I was very nervous, super shy. I had really bad social anxiety, and now I talk to everyone, no matter who. So I want to make other kids feel comfortable and feel like they belong somewhere and feel like someone has their back."

Nearly two dozen scholars from Facing History New Tech High School hosted more than 350 students from across Ohio and parts of Pennsylvania. At the beginning they didn’t know each other, but they grew more comfortable with each exercise, said Facing History senior J-Sun.

"Basically, you've got to work together with other people and learn how to lead other people, how to strategize, how to do things faster, how to make people feel like they're part of something and how to make yourself feel like you're part of something,” he said. “So, basically the whole point of being a Link is to hold everything together. That's the way I see it. It is to hold everything together and to build a strong chain of people.”

J-Sun, says they can use these exercises with the nearly 80 freshmen in the program at Facing History. He has 10 in his group, and he works hard to make sure they feel welcome and a part of a community.

"We do smaller groups, with two or three linked leaders in each group,” he said. “And every Friday we meet. We help them with their work if they need help. Sometimes we do lessons."

Indigo says crew members wear their Link Crew t-shirts every Friday so anyone who may need help can come to them -- and they do.

"The other day a child was in the hallway like crying," Indigo said. "She needed to decompress. I took her into a room, and I was like, ‘Hey what's wrong?’ She explained her problem to me. The teacher thanked me and said, ‘Hey, you're a really good Link leader for doing stuff like that you aren't asked to do. You are more of a leader in the school.’ "

Rorapaugh says building leadership skills is part of being a Link Crew member.

“All of them are learning to be leaders,” said Rorapaugh. “And they are leaders in their own different ways. So, we have lots of students who are quiet leaders and who work better with one student at a time. And then we also have those leaders who are out there and in your face and encouraging you to be the best person that you can by simply be.”

The Link Crew is learning lessons that will stay with them long after high school.

"Honestly I’m loving the day,” said J-Sun. “We're doing a lot of activities. We're meeting new people. We're doing things I've never done before, like you know, different games where you have to take risks. In this role you have to take risks to be able to become successful. And that's something they're teaching us so that we could teach others.”

Have a story idea for the CMSD News Bureau? Email it to