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Good gum, good chums

Corey Gerdts' senior year at Austin High School is already moving fast.

Gerdts is among a handful of AHS juniors and seniors who signed up for the school's Link Crew, a group started last year to encourage incoming freshmen to have a closer relationship with their classmates and school.

Gerdts and other Link Crew members arrived at school before 8 a.m. Thursday to take care of last-minute details. When the AHS Class of 2014 filed into the gymnasium, it was welcomed with a homecoming-style event.

Each Link Crew led a contingent of costumed freshmen through activities designed to encourage students to get to know each other. Gerdts' crew wore Burger King crowns. Other crews spent the day dressed in monkey masks or Groucho Marx glasses.

As one Link Crew senior put it, "They like us at the Dollar Store."


Upperclassmen also got to share a few words of wisdom with the newcomers. Among Gerdts' top 10 things to know about the school:

• "Watch out for the doors because they all open outward."

• "Don't worry about tripping up or down the stairs because everyone does it."

• "Have gum — you can make friends that way."

"It sounds really cheesy, but you look at them as people and not as freshmen," said Gerdts.

The Link Crew concept grew from AHS' Chemical Health and Awareness Initiative, a grant-funded program that aims to curb underage drug and alcohol use. Link Crew made its debut in 2009.

Assistant Principal Katie Baskin said participation in activities that mesh with school increased last year, as did student participation in CHAI activities. Baskin credited Link Crew for helping that change.

"It's truly beneficial if we can support a ninth-grader who will graduate within four years," she said.

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