Mike Knezevich wasn't always so big.
The Steamboat Springs High School assistant principal remembers the nerve-wracking, pressure-filled experience of entering high school as a freshman.
He also remembers what it was like having a popular senior as his mentor.
"He treated me like I belonged," Knezevich said. "I never had to worry about harassment or hazing."
Knezevich hopes this fall's incoming class of freshmen will experience similar feelings of comfort and security through a program being introduced at the high school.
The Link Crew program is a national program started in 1988 to address issues of hazing and poor treatment of freshmen at a California high school. The program uses older students to help high school freshmen feel comfortable in their new surroundings.
Last year, the Link Crew program was used to help more than 400,000 freshmen students across the country, according to Link Crew's Web site.
The high school has looked at implementing the program for several years, Knezevich said.
"It's been something that's been a goal of ours," he said.
Aurora's Hinkley High School, where Knezevich worked before coming to Steamboat, has used the Link Crew program for years.
"We had a lot of success with it there," Knezevich said.
The program often results in a reduction in student absences, class failures, disciplinary incidents and hazing, he said.
High school teachers Lucianne Myhre and Chad Bowdre will head the program when it's implemented this fall. They will train a group of about 50 upperclassmen. Those upperclassmen will attend the freshman orientation in August, when they will be paired with a small group of freshman students.
The Link Crew program is designed to continue throughout the school year through a variety of social and academic activities.
The high school hasn't had significant problems with hazing, Knezevich said, but a perception exists that older students will bully incoming freshmen. Younger students often feel the pressure to fit in with their older peers, especially on sports teams.
"Sometimes it becomes a fine line between team building and hazing," Knezevich said. "Initiation isn't acceptable.
"I don't think we see hazing or initiation by force, but kids want to be involved and part of the group, and they may do things they wouldn't normally do."
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