POST FALLS - Post Falls High freshmen were locked out of the gym by upperclassmen first thing Thursday morning, but there was no need to report the incident to school staff.
It wasn't exactly cruel.
What was waiting inside The Arena was a big, surprising loud welcome from The Link Crew, older student leaders and staff helping transition the freshmen into high school.
Freshmen walked through the "gauntlet" - a human tunnel extending across the floor in which leaders offered words of encouragement to make the younger students feel comfortable in their new surroundings.
It kicked off a day of group activities with positive messages and getting acquainted with classmates, schedules and teachers.
Freshman Nicole Pence said the experience helped break the ice.
"It's good to meet new friends and figure out a bit what high school is about," she said. "It's nice knowing that someone is there to help."
Student leaders, who spent two days training for orientation, wore bright T-shirts with "We've got chemistry" on the back to stand out to the freshmen. Students wore wacky costumes as they toured the school and met teachers in groups. It was a festive atmosphere resembling Mardi Gras.
The younger students were reminded that they share a lot of similarities with upperclassmen and that part of high school is about meeting others and starting new friendships.
"It's a pretty cool deal," said Samantha Cooney, a Link coordinator. "The purpose of the activities is to build a mentor-student relationship."
And the relationships don't end at orientation.
Link leaders hang with the freshmen throughout the first semester of school.
"It provides a way for freshmen to attach themselves to the older students," said Neil Uhrig, the school resource officer.
Junior Olivia Smock said that, as a freshman, she didn't keep up with her Link leader, but she wishes she would have.
"We're just like them," she said of the younger students. "We want them to feel comfortable at school from the day they walk in."
A closing assembly features the freshmen making a pledge to graduate on time with their class in 2016.
Senior Devon Khoma said the private school he attended as a freshman didn't have such an orientation program, but it would have come in handy because there were nerves even at a small school.
"I would have liked that, but now I'm blessed with the opportunity to influence kids' lives," he said. "We're trying to let the freshmen know that we're not out to get them. We're here to help."
Post Falls High School junior Braden Davenport looks over the class schedule of incoming freshman Annie Rosa Thursday during activities in the Link program. The program is an orientation with upper clansmen offering advice and help to freshman.
Dylan Priebe, a freshman at Post Falls High School, reacts as he and a class mate look at their reflections with feather masks.