WHITTIER – The Whittier Union High School District kicked off the 2016-17 school year on Aug. 16, giving more than 2,800 members of the Class of 2020 a preview of what the next 720 days – or four years – of their high school careers will be like ahead of the first day of school.

In an effort to eliminate any first-day jitters before the official start of school on Aug. 17, each comprehensive high school welcomed freshmen with opening pep rallies with colorful balloons, spirited music and displays of Condor, Lancer, Titan, Chieftain and Cardinal pride as part of Freshman First Day.

Now in its 12th year, the program encourages Whittier Union’s newest students to tour their respective schools, attend abbreviated class sessions, meet their teachers and classmates, and participate in fun and interactive orientation activities at each campus. They also have the opportunity to sign up for co-curricular activities in a club rush before upperclassmen arrive the next day.

“In these 720 days, we will take our students from being precocious 13-year-olds who are just beginning to spread their wings, to mature 18-year-olds who are ready to take on the world in college, the military and careers,” Superintendent Martin Plourde said. “We want to provide the best 720-day experience they can imagine, and when they are through, have them look back upon their time in our schools knowing that they are better because they attended a Whittier Union high school.”

At Santa Fe High School, 592 freshmen were greeted by nearly 100 student leaders, including Link Crew juniors and seniors who will serve as mentors to the students during their first year at the school.

“It’s so cool to be the face of Santa Fe High School and show them around,” said senior Cristal Gutierrez, who has been a Link Crew leader for a year. “My first year was great here. It’s such a friendly school with good vibes.”

Senior Nicolas Mabey, who has been part of the program for the past two years, said the Freshman First Day event he attended when he first started school inspired him to try new things.

“My Link Crew leaders were super fun and cool and they made me feel part of the Chieftain family,” Mabey said. “I wouldn’t have had the push to go out there and try new things if it wasn’t for them. And now we are the first impression for new students and it’s really cool to introduce them to our loving and friendly campus and all of the opportunities they shouldn’t miss out on.”

Students participated in a “Simon Says” game, a balloon pop challenge and other inclusive, team-building exercises. They also took part in a club rush to explore activities and athletics.

“This day really provides the students and opportunity to get comfortable and oriented on campus prior to the arrival of the all of the upper classmen. We want all of our students to have the best experiences possible in the form of academics, athletics and activities, this is a great start for them,” Santa Fe Principal Craig Campbell said. “It also motivates our upper classmen to be role models to the younger generation of students and explore what it means to be a Chief and member of the Whittier Union family. We can’t wait to see what the new school year brings.”


FRESHMEN1: Nearly 100 student Link Crew leaders at Santa Fe High School welcomed 592 freshmen to their campus with interactive activities, including a balloon pop challenge, as part of the Freshman First Day program on Aug. 16.

FRESHMEN2: Santa Fe High School Link Crew leaders Cristal Gutierrez, left, and Nicolas Mabey led student activities during the school’s Freshman First Day program, a tradition at Whittier Union that helps transition students from middle school to high school.