Tucked into the hillside in the Woodsdale area of Wheeling is The Linsly School. This private, college-preparatory institution is well-known for its rigorous academics and is visible in the Ohio Valley thorough sports and the iconic “L” sticker seen on the rear windows of vehicles.

But Linsly also is becoming known for living its mission statement of promoting academic excellence, inspiring lifelong learning, developing future leaders and emphasizing character development.

One unique quality of The Linsly School is the implementation of advisor groups. Advisor groups are comprised of five to 10 students from all grade levels who are then mentored by a Linsly faculty or staff member. This group takes the place of a “homeroom” where in other schools, students would meet for attendance purposes and announcements.

While these logistics are still handled in the advior groups at Linsly, they are so much more. According to Catherine Coleman, advisor, and member of the Linsly World Language Department, “The advisor program at Linsly is something more than just a ‘homeroom’ period for 10 minutes a day. The students in your advisor group become your school ‘family’ — we celebrate successes big and small. Advisor is a great time where you get to know students as the people they are becoming — not just academically, but all aspects of their lives.”

Continuing the school’s mission, advisor groups are a way for students to learn, lead and build character. Over the 2018 holiday season, numerous advisor groups participated in community service events.

The National Junior Honor Society at Linsly coordinated a canned food drive. Advisor groups were challenged to collect canned and nonperishable foods as part of the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Food Drive.

“I really thought it was important to participate in the food drive because giving back is important. We get a lot, and it is important to give back.” said Linsly eighth-grader and member of the National Junior Honor Society, Kelsey Glessner. “I loved that there were smiles on everyone’s faces when we were loading the cars with food. It was exciting to count and sort the food, too, because of the friendly competition through the advisor groups. That made it even more fun!”

Over the holiday season, the Gary Sprague Chapter of the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) sponsored the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Annual Food Drive.

Coleman explained, “It is always important when you are part of a larger group like Linsly that you ‘pay it forward.’ As an alum of the school and now current teacher, I have seen both sides of what it means to be a part of Linsly, and also how we as a school can help our community to thrive with our participation in things like the recent canned food drive. It is important to recognize that we have the unique honor to attend a school where we have many opportunities to connect to helping our community.” Coleman’s advisor group collected 116 cans of food and won the food drive competition in 2018.

As a way to give back to the community, Jennifer Loudermilk, middle school language arts teacher, and her advisor group coordinated a sock drive.

“I asked my advisees if they would like to do a winter service project to help the needy in the community. They all unanimously agreed,” said Loudermilk. “We chose to donate socks to Hagar House because my church, St Jude in Glen Dale, was already participating in that project, so we offered to help. Janet Kalasky of St. Jude Church dropped them off to Hagar House for us,” said Loudermilk.

As Coleman explained, advisor groups, “allow teachers to get to know a core group of students that they can guide and support both in academia and in the future. This program really adds to the emphasis Linsly places on developing the whole student — character, lifelong learning, leadership and academic excellence.”

Frank Wilson, head of the Fine Arts Department and website coordinator at Linsly, takes his small advisor group on monthly dinner trips to Drovers Inn in Wellsburg. “There’s a real sense of camaraderie in the advisee groups, and the longer the same students remain in a group, the more the group develops a sense of family.”

“Our students are hungry to be involved in the community,” said Stacey Creely, director of public relations at Linsly. That hunger is what drives these student to be involved and help make a difference.

“Doing a project like this [the sock project] really helped them [the students] feel like there are over 100 people that our little advisory group helped, giving the students a sense that they made a difference. I think that’s the role for us as advisors — finding little ways to make a big difference. I always enjoy making it personal for my advisees, allowing them to see the benefits of something that they did as a small group. Kids need to know that even a small group can do big things,” Loudermilk said.

Interested in learning more about The Linsly School? Come to Experience Linsly Day at 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10. During this event, families can take tours of the campus, hear about financial aid and scholarship opportunities, learn about the curriculum and extracurricular activities, and meet current students, faculty and administrators. Register online.

Chana Baker is a freelance writer and instructor of literacy, composition and literature at West Virginia Northern Community College. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications, specializing in journalism, and a master’s degree in English and creative writing.

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