GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Making the transition from middle school to high school is tough for a lot of kids, but one Valley school district is helping freshmen succeed by connecting them with older students from the very moment they step on campus.
It could be the most traumatic day of their high school career, but instead this will be a day to treasure.
"The way they set it up, it's exciting and I'm not as nervous as I was yesterday," said Glendale High School freshman Chujor Ejire.
It's a feeling echoed by classmate Bibiana Fonseca.
"It felt nice, just feeling welcome," she said.
"We just came in and everything seemed to click," Maria Santana added.
All because this first day of school at Glendale High is also the day incoming freshmen will link up with upperclassmen.
"The Link Program is a program to introduce our freshmen students to the culture here at Glendale High School and at our other high schools," explained Superintendent Eugene Dudo of the Glendale Union High School District.
He said that sense of culture and tradition is handed down from student to student.
"It is as much for the upperclassmen as it is for the freshmen -- them taking responsibility and stepping up and being in a leadership role," Dudo said.
The Link leaders said they use a series of games and activities to learn how to set freshmen at ease and take them under their wings.
"Sometimes it's kind of awkward to start a conversation, but with all the activities we do it's more of everyone is in it, so it is not so awkward," explained student Link leader Kacie Lee, as she participates in an activity designed to make that easier.
From guiding freshmen to class to getting them involved, Lee said it is about helping students fit in and feel good.
"A lot of freshmen feel intimidated and we don't want that to happen to them, like to go out for sports or clubs or any other activity at Glendale, they need to feel comfortable," she said.
Andy Deng knows how much it helped him. His freshman year was the same year his family moved here from China.
"When I was a freshman, I didn't speak English or know any English at all and so first day of school I didn't know where to go, I just stuck with the group and just followed them," he said.
But he is not following anymore. Now he is a Link leader.
Link coordinator Vanessa Bernal said freshmen are not the only ones to benefit.
"But they learn how to lead a small group and they do that on their own," she said of the upperclassmen.
It's all part of a program that links students to each other and to success.
"Because as long as a kid feels connected to their high school, they're going to come to their high school and they're going to show up every day and they're going to give us 110 percent," Bernal said.