MINNETONKA, Minn. -- Minnetonka High School is big. More than 3000 students course through its hallways every day. Daunting for students who don't know their way around, which is why the Minnetonka First Mates program is there-- to throw incoming freshmen a lifeline.
"It's almost like a big brother, big sister kind of thing," said Student Life Coordinator Amy Livorsi.
The program is similar to Link Crew at many schools, where juniors and seniors might organize a get to know you retreat for incoming freshmen.
Last year Minnetonka revamped its program to create more opportunities throughout the year for senior First Mates to interact with freshmen.
First contact comes in the weeks before school starts. "We gave them our phone numbers," said senior Ellie Dulac, who said students did call prior to that first day of school, sometimes just looking for reassurance.
Senior Drew Dutton, an eagle scout, is no stranger to community service. Like Dulac, he likes the idea of giving back to his school. Sometimes it's just a friendly face. Sometimes it's the nuts and bolts of student life that might escape an adult.
Dutton points to finals week- where being in the know can give you a leg up. "If you pack a home lunch you don't have to wait in this lunch line that's 1100 kids long," said Dutton, "Because then you aren't going to have enough time to eat your food to have enough energy for your next test."
In addition to a half day retreat for 9th graders, First Mates will teach a health class in which they will offer advice on how to get involved in the school. They will meet throughout the year to check up on their freshmen, dispensing information on what to expect throughout the school year- and also to make sure no one is feeling adrift in a sea of Minnetonka Skippers.
"We have such an amazing community," said principal Jeff Erickson, who says this program, and others at the school are designed to grow a positive culture in the school for all students.
After all, no one knows better what challenges students face than another student. "I think it's really important that students at Minnetonka are able to get support from people who aren't adults," said Dulac. "Because I know that some stuff is hard to discuss with adults- so that's why we're here. We're here to be that support system."