Connect groups adjust to virtual world

McLeadership holds connect groups for new students


Shruthi Manimaran

Transfer Connect group plays a friendly game of movie themed Kahoot. Freshmen and transfers met their Big Macs on Friday.

On Friday, December 11, Connect groups took place during Highlander Time.

Connect groups are conducted by McLean’s McLeadership program and feature junior and senior ‘Big Macs,’ who are assigned a small group of incoming freshmen and transfer students to help assimilate them into McLean.

“Connect Groups have been a part of the culture of McLean for almost 20 years. In that time, over 7,000 freshmen have benefitted from having a junior or senior mentor,” school counselor Gregory Olcott said.

This year however, attendance has been lower due to the new virtual environment.

“The virtual environment has made Connect Groups challenging. Typically, all freshmen attend Connect Groups as that is the only place they can go,” Olcott said. “We are unable to ‘make’ or ‘force’ students to attend virtual Connect Groups, so attendance is lower than what it usually would be.”

The decrease in attendance can be detrimental to newcomers.

“The unfortunate thing is that we have seen for years and years the positive impact that the McLeadership program has on students,” Olcott said. “We are concerned that there might be students who really need to connect with someone who [aren’t]taking advantage of the Connect Groups.”

To respond to the drop in turnoutMcLeadership has been planning new ways of reaching out to students.

“We have been increasing and adjusting our communications with students, as well as parents and the community to get the word out about the importance of Connect Groups.” Olcott said.

Junior Bella Churchward, an international transfer student, has experienced the benefits of  having a Big Mac and monthly Connect groups.

“I was able to make some new friends through the Connect groups and we have actually met up, which has been really nice,” Churchward said.

Although it’s drastically different this year, McLeadership continues to prioritize freshmen and transfer students.

“We are learning a lot in this virtual world,” Olcott said. “We are constantly trying to figure out new ways to connect with our students and make them feel like they are a part of the Highlander Nation!”