Pioneer Valley High School orientation.
Jay Edwards, dean of students. speaks to the class of 2027 on Friday during an orientation at Pioneer Valley High School. The first day of school for all Santa Maria Joint Union High School District schools is Thursday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

About to start her junior year at Pioneer Valley High School, Yaritza Jimenez recalled being nervous as a ninth-grader and facing her first day at the huge campus in north Santa Maria. 

Attending the Link Crew orientation helped ease her nerves for the Tommie Kunst Junior High School graduate. 

“Having an older mentor helped me out a lot,” she said Friday while serving as a Link crew mentor for the class of 2027. “On the first day of school, I was nervous, I was scared.”

Yet, seeing the Link members, sporting green T-shirts to make them stand out, provided comfort and boosted her confidence as she made new friends.

“I just wanted to be that someone for a freshman who was scared, nervous, but also try to be a friend for them so that they could on the first day have someone to be there,” she said. 

With an incoming class of 775 members, this year’s Link Crew at Pioneer Valley High School held two orientations Friday, with one group in the morning and the second in the afternoon.

Pioneer Valley High School orientation.
Class of 2027 members are encouraged to sign a pledge to graduate during the orientation on Friday at Pioneer Valley Union High School. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The first day of the 2023-24 school year for students at Pioneer Valley and the other Santa Maria Joint Union High School District will be Thursday.

Led by juniors and seniors, the orientation crew introduced the new students to the school, sharing about extracurricular activities and providing tours of campus to ease nerves about the first day. The new students picked up class schedules and T-shirts along with signing a pledge to graduate.

The day also helped connect the class of 2027 with additional friendly faces ahead of their first day.

Pioneer Valley High School orientation.
Sporting the birthday theme, Pioneer Valley High School freshmen and LINK leaders pose for a photo during the orientation on Friday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“The power of this orientation lies in the fact that it’s led by students,” Jay Edwards, dean of students, said, noting a few advisors were on campus while most faculty or staff were not. 

“This is a day that we reserve this campus solely for students so that our students can build those relationships and so that the incoming freshmen can really grow a sense of ownership and comfort in their new school home,” Edwards said.

Pioneer Valley High School orientation.
Sophomores Quyen Ha and Selena Diaz hand out T-shirts to Pioneer Valley High School students on Friday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Before leaving campus, the new students gathered in the gym, where Edwards reminded them about not squandering the opportunities of high school ahead despite what other influences might exist. 

“Know that these people in these green shirts are here for you,” Edwards said. “You now have a network of people who want you to succeed. Do not waste this opportunity to be successful high school students.”