New for New Parents: The First Link Program

First Link Chair, Michael Solberg P ’12

By Mike Solberg, P ’12; Rockford, IL
Earlier this summer, my daughter, Muriel (’12), and I spent four weeks in a small town in Angola. Following a long civil war that ended in 2002, Angola’s infrastructure is still being rebuilt. With basic communications systems in ruins, Muriel and I experienced what it was like to be almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. Our time in Angola certainly made me more aware of just how “connected” to others we normally are in the world today. I also came to realize how much we rely on other people for information, especially when faced with a new, unfamiliar situation.

A new, unfamiliar situation: that is often what parents face as their son or daughter begins life at Deerfield Academy. But because of the new First Link program, parents of incoming students need not feel “cut off” from the world of Deerfield Academy. Parents who are new to Deerfield are now able to rely on experienced parents for all sorts of information needed to make a successful transition to Deerfield.

In this inaugural year of the First Link program, nearly 100 parents volunteered to make contact with all the incoming families who are new to Deerfield. While we certainly will be able to make improvements next year, the initiative has been very well received, both by those making the calls and those receiving them. This comment is typical of the reports from the contacts: “Great telephone call. . . we found many connections in common. We plan to get together this summer. . . I feel [the family] will call with any questions. They are so excited about being a part of Deerfield!”

Not that I have formally analyzed the data, but it seems the most common topics of conversation have been appropriate clothes/fashion, transportation, homework load, social environment, and sports and other extra curriculars. Many of the volunteers have said “I wish this had been in place when I was a new parent!” So it seems the program is fulfilling a real need and is off to a good start.

In addition to providing a “first link” for new families, we hope the relationships made through the First Link program will help new parents form connections with other parents, faculty, staff and with the school in general. When possible, we are encouraging the First Link volunteers to meet their new families on campus, and make a few introductions, especially during Parents’ Fall Weekend. One of the joys of being a Deerfield parent is meeting others who share a commitment to world-class education, and who also want to see each and every student thrive.

A special word to those of you new to Deerfield: as the school year progresses, please don’t hesitate to contact your First Link with questions, concerns, worries or just great stories. All Deerfield parents know that a student’s adjustment to campus life is an interesting mix of highs and lows, struggles and joys. The same is true for the parent left back home! If your First Link can be of any help, even if just to listen with an understanding ear, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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One Response to “New for New Parents: The First Link Program”

  1. Tim Nelson says:

    While I applaud the efforts of experienced DA parents to contact parents of incoming freshman, I encourage those experienced parents to attempt to contact both parents of the incoming freshman if they can derive from the directory that those parents are divorced. As the divorced dad of an incoming freshman I was quite surprised that my daughter’s mother had been having an ongoing dialogue with another mother for months yet I never knew there was anyone I could call. Certainly not the end of the world, just a suggestion.

    Keep up the good work,

    Tim Nelson

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