The New To East Club founded two years ago by Holder and Halksworth, expanded this year to include the East Ambassador program, which is similar to Link Crew. The program’s goal was to help acclimate new sophomores, juniors and seniors to the East environment.
Digital design teacher Jennifer Hair had got the idea for East Ambassadors came to Hair when her friend moved into the East area from Colorado with an incoming high schooler. She noticed all of the hard work that Holder and Halksworth were doing and felt she needed to step in and use some of her free time to help new East students.
For the past two years, the club has been a welcoming place for conversation, advice, and games for new kids every Thursday after school. It was a group of people that all had “new” in common, so the club enabled them to make connections and friends.
“I wanted to take some of the work off of [Holder and Halksworth’s] shoulders. These aren’t paid positions. They were doing this out of the kindness in their hearts,” Hair said. “It’s not an official duty of a teacher, we do it because kids are important to us.”
They started recruiting ambassadors for the program by contacting people who had applied for the Link Leader position and weren’t accepted or people who were really passionate about East. They had their first East Ambassador orientation on August 12, where new non-freshman and exchange students were able to come to East and walk through their schedule, get advice and learn what East is all about.
According to Hair, East Ambassadors is not made to accommodate freshmen like Link Crew is. However, Link Crew was the perfect place to pull ambassadors from because the two groups share the key concepts of support and offering a friendly face for a new student. With older kids, Hair believes, it’s important they meet people who have common interests so they can foster a friendship with their ambassador. However, Hair is hoping that the East Ambassadors go above and beyond a regular orientation experience
“It’s a group with smaller, personal connections,” said Hair. “We don’t want them to feel like freshmen, it has to have a different feel coming in because many of them have gone through a freshmen orientation at their other school.”
Austrian foreign exchange student, Eva Woeginger, was able to go to the orientation day where she located her classes and made connections with other students her age. According to Woeginger, the orientation day made the first day of American school less overwhelming and helped with the adjustment.
Senior Kala Christian became an ambassador with the program after she wasn’t able to be a Link Leader. According to Christian, Hair knew that because Christian was in a similar situation when she transferred to East, she would have a lot of offer because of her experiences in being new. Christian believes that an ambassador doesn’t offer a greater impact than a Link Leader — but a different one.
According to Hair, the main difference between Link Crew and East Ambassadors is the size. Link Crew is made for freshman that don’t need as much individual attention. However, the ambassador program is geared toward small one-on-one groups that can turn into a personal connection.
“We get more one-on-one time with the new students, which I think makes them feel really comfortable,” said Christian. “It’s really nice having classes with them or seeing them in the hallway because I think they see me as someone that they can confide in really easily.”
According to Halksworth, the ambassador program has made New to East Club more relevant in the school because there are more kids joining the community to help the new kids. Holder believes that although people at East are always nice to new students, it’s hard for new kids to make friends because everyone has their group — and this club and program can help solve that problem.
“The club is kind of evolving, the needs of the new kids are going to be changing,” said Holder. “By definition, once you come in, make friends and then move on, the club kind of becomes unnecessary, we’re just here to help people through it a little bit.”