Teen mentors want program to expand

When junior Miguel Soto moved on to Carson High School from Carson Middle School, he said, he felt overwhelmed and intimidated.

His friends from middle school all "went their own way," leaving him alone to navigate the building and social structure.

"It was just hard finding the classes and people to hang with," Soto, 16, said.

To prevent other freshmen from repeating his struggles, he joined the high school teen mentoring program, Link crew. As part of the program, upperclassmen are assigned to help a group of freshmen make the transition to high school.

In the five years since it started, adviser Misty Harris said, the program has been successful in raising test scores and lowering dropout rates.

It has so much changed the culture of Carson High School, she said, she'd like to see every high school in the state have a similar program.

She helped present Senate Bill 77 Wednesday to the joint meeting of the Senate Committee on Health and Education and the Assembly Committee on Education.

The bill calls on all high schools in the state to develop similar teen mentoring programs.

To become Link Leaders, students must submit an application, essay and a recommendation from a teacher.

This year there are 66 leaders to about 640 freshmen. She said she has seen school spirit increase over the past five years.

"The people who really get the most out of it are the Link Leaders because they're committed to the high school and the community," she said. "You can see the pride, and it resonates through the school."

Carrying signs with slogans like "Help me help them," Link Leaders and freshmen walked from the high school Wednesday afternoon to demonstrate in front of the Legislature.

"We just want to show everybody we care and that we're a good teen mentoring program," said junior Rebecca Baltisberger, 17. "They should really do this at every school."

Unlike Soto, Baltisberger became a Link Leader because of the positive experience she had as a freshman.

"I was really nervous about coming to high school because it was so big, and I was short for my age. My Link Leader kept calling me and inviting me to different activities," Baltisberger recalled. "I felt involved. I wanted to make other freshmen feel welcome and wanted, just like I felt."

- Contact reporter Teri Vance at tvance@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1272.


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