Collingwood Collegiate Institute’s (CCI) youngest students spent the morning carving jack-o-lanterns, under the watchful eye of their peer mentors.
The creative session was facilitated by CCI’s Link Crew, a team of 60 Grade 11 and 12 students who act as mentors and leaders for the new Grade 9 students coming to high school each year.
At the end of October, the Link Crew and all the Grade 9 students carve pumpkins donated by Morrison’s Pumpkin Patch, and the jack-o-lanterns are distributed throughout the community to organizations including Bay Haven Senior Care Community, Balmoral Place, Chartwell Georgian Traditions, and Hospice Georgian Triangle.
Guidance counsellor, and overseer for the Link Crew program, Collin Wallace, said the students carve about 70 jack-o-lanterns each year. There are 338 Grade 9 students this year.
“There’s lots of buy-in from the Link Crew leaders, it’s a great way to break the ice,” said Wallace.
This is the third or fourth year the Link Crew has worked with Grade 9 students on the pumpkin carving activity.
The Link Crew leads an orientation day in August for Grade 8 students entering high school the following September. Throughout the school year, Link Crew hosts pep rallies and checks in with Grade 9 students to make sure they’re enjoying their high school experience and can find what they need.
“They’re like the go-to people for new students,” said Wallace.
The Link Crew encourages Grade 9 students to participate in community projects.
The pumpkin carving project, for example, helps Grade 9 students get to know each other and the Link Crew team better, while also contributing to the community.
“I think that’s the real goal of a leader is to try to make an impact in the community,” said Wallace.
There’s also community buy-in to the pumpkin carving program. Morrison’s Pumpkin Patch donates all 70 of the pumpkins each year to the CCI activity.
“This is a busy time for them, and they could sell these pumpkins,” said Wallace. “They’re super nice people who are willing to do this.”
Later this week, the Link Crew will work with one of the school’s Grade 11 drama classes to host a haunted house for Grade 9 students. Admission is by donation of a non-perishable food item or $2. Wallace said donations will be passed on to a local charity, likely the CCI backpack food program.