TeamMates Of The Month
Kirsten said her favorite aspect of TeamMates is having someone to talk to. She said she's had some rough times and values having another adult outside of family in whom she can confide. Kirsten knows that everything she discusses with Tara is kept between the two of them and she knows that Tara is not going to judge her for the perspective she has about the issues she's going through right now.
"We try to talk through decisions," Tara said.
Kirsten initiated becoming a TeamMates mentee while she was in 6th grade. Some of her friends had mentors and she realized she also wanted an additional caring adult in her life. She was on the waiting list until 7th grade when she and Tara became TeamMates. They have actually known each other since Kirsten was in third grade because two of Tara's children were also in Kirsten's grade. Kirsten, and Tara's children, will graduate from Lincoln East High School spring 2013.
Tara learned of TeamMates at her church and then also found that her employer, Lincoln Benefit Life, is a strong proponent of employees volunteering to be TeamMates mentors. Tara had several motivations to become part of the program including the desire to be a role model for her children and offer them the example of giving back to the community. Tara noted, "TeamMates is very rewarding for me, especially now that Kirsten is a senior and going on to college. Being part of the program doesn't take a lot of time; anyone can fit it into their schedule." She has shared her enthusiasm with others and her husband is also a TeamMate. "He's really enjoying it too," Tara said.
Kirsten also views giving back to the community as an important part of her life. After she graduates from high school this spring, her plans include attending college at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa to major in elementary education. She will graduate with endorsements for Special Education and Reading.
Kirsten's mother is a Special Education teacher. Kirsten has been helping Special Education students within her school as a volunteer since she was in 7th grade. She has maintained contact and has continued to help one of her friends even after the other student moved to Southeast High School.
Kirsten understands the importance of her relationships with the Special Education children she has volunteered to help and befriend. She knows it has been important for them to have someone at school who they can count on. "They know I am one of their friends. They know I'm not going to judge them and that I will always be there for them." Because of her dedication, Kirsten has been recognized at Lincoln East High School receiving the Spartan Challenge Award.
She is looking forward to being able to help future Special Education students with the same compassionate spirit as their teacher and friend.
Tara said she feels fortunate to have a relationship with someone who is mature beyond her years and who has the desire to help others. While she will miss seeing Kirsten on a regular basis, she is excited for her. "The future is a whole new chapter for her to open up and write."
They started meeting in Alex's junior year of school and they hit it off right away. Alex is a senior this year and very much looking forward to graduating in May 2013. Alex first learned of TeamMates through a Native American club of which he was a member.
Matt, an on-air radio personality at KFRX Radio, Three Eagles Communications Company, said he first learned about TeamMates through his work. On-air interviews provided a great vantage point from which to learn about the program. Hearing the stories and seeing the impact the program has had on the lives of both the mentees and the mentors captivated his interest. In addition to mentoring, Matt has volunteered his time to serve as an emcee for several Lincoln TeamMates events.
Matt decided to get involved after personal reflection and the realization that during his time in high school and junior high school, he had many mentors and father figures who had made a positive impact on his life. He has found the program to be rewarding.
"Mentees need mentors to help them along their way," McKay said, "but we mentors need the mentees. Building a relationship with a young person allows the mentor a window into another world. It provides a connection with and an understanding of people other than our peers. It connects us to another world and to different peer groups. One of the reasons why Lincoln is a great place to live is that we all have these connections and TeamMates is one of those organizations that builds connections."
This connection has brought about new personal skills, as Alex credits Matt with helping him to become less shy. Matt proudly agrees that Alex has become more vocal and has improved his communication style. "He's more confident interacting with others."
Alex also appreciates that Matt helped him and his sister through the process of getting jobs at the Lincoln Children's Zoo. Being a part of the Zoo Crew is very important to Alex. After high school graduation, he plans to attend Southeast Community College and then continue on to the University of Nebraska to pursue a degree in animal science. His dream job is to work at the zoo with the animals and to teach children about the animals.
Matt has also helped Alex understand the importance of school, grades and graduating by sharing his own education background and steps to a successful career.
Matt said it has been very rewarding for him to see Alex gain confidence in communicating with others and has been exciting to see him improve his inter-personal skills. "These are skill sets that are going to play a crucial role in his future both at school and later in his career."
Harry and Larry have been TeamMates since Harry was in 6th grade. Larry admires Harry's respectfulness and his willingness to help others. As a team they always ask the school staff and school facilitator, Dr. Charf, if there are special projects to work on. They have completed several including folding T-shirts for a special event and making media shelves more useful by covering them with paper.
Harry is an extremely diligent worker, Larry said, and he credits Harry's parents for the values they have shared that have helped Harry develop a great work ethic.
"Harry is also a very good student," Larry said proudly.
Harry wants to be an engineer and when the two meet for their mentoring time, they discuss Harry's grades. They are both mindful that good grades in math and science are crucial to Harry going on to college to become an engineer. Larry is confident that Harry will continue to earn the grades he needs. "There's no reason he won't become an engineer or an architect."
In addition to talking about grades, Larry said he likes to come prepared to talk about current events, such as the recent presidential election. Larry acknowledged being a "history nut" and said they enjoy talking about historical events.
While they chat, they also play games. Fast-moving card games and a game involving building and blue prints, are among their favorites.
Harry said that Larry helps him with the blue prints and then the actual construction that takes place in the Cargo Bridge game. Larry has helped him learn about bracing and utilizing angles. The game experience has taught him that if it isn't engineered correctly, the structure falls.
One of Harry strongest character traits is his care for others and respectful nature. Larry said he first became aware of this quality when he learned that Harry helped a neighbor clean a snow-filled sidewalk because she couldn't do it herself. Also, Larry said, he is always respectful, addressing adults with Mr. or Mrs., not by their first names.
Larry first became interested in the TeamMates program through his church. "Throughout my working career, Lincoln was good for me," Larry said. TeamMates offers a way to give back.
Harry is very, very special to me and that keeps me coming. We've only missed a couple of times in the three years because of sickness or a special occasion. "The other joy that I get out of it, and actually I consider it ‘my paycheck', every time I come, Harry is waiting for me, and it is a joy to see him."
When asked what she has come to appreciate most about the TeamMates program, Jessica responded "It's just nice to talk with someone at school."
When they first started meeting, they liked to complete crafts and play games. Sometimes they played basketball. They also enjoyed playing card games. One of Jessica's favorite projects was a blanket they crafted last school year. The blanket was a project they worked on in advance of Jessica having her tonsils removed. She and Kathy had decided the blanket would provide comfort during Jessica's recuperation time. Now when they meet, Jessica said "Most of the time we just talk."
This year the conversation centers on what is going on in Jessica's life right now. They talk about her grades, how to study for finals and discuss scholarship and college options. Jessica said Kathy helps her by sharing what her own children did when they were preparing for college.
Jessica believes that because of their relationship, she works harder in school, focuses more on getting good grades, and has set goals to go to college.
Kathy proudly added that Jessica has always had good grades, and has gone from having good grades to very good grades. Further, Kathy said, Jessica understands the value of studying for finals and the importance of getting good grades. Kathy credits Jessica's home environment for the value placed on doing well in school and moving toward college. Jessica hasn't picked out a post-secondary school yet, but plans a career in medicine. She's specifically interested in neo-natal or children's medicine.
"Jessica has always talked about the medical field. That has always been her goal," Kathy said.
Kathy first learned about the TeamMates program from media publicity, but she credits one of the managers at work for actually inducing her and several other US Bank employees to get involved.
Kathy said her favorite aspect of being a TeamMate is the opportunity to be involved with a young person and to watch them achieve progress towards their hopes, dreams and aspirations. She has enjoyed watching Jessica grow from the young, and somewhat shy person she was to the more mature young lady she has become.
TMCO has adopted the school and participates in Junior Achievement and the TeamMates programs at Park Middle School, Roland said. Around the time when Roland was learning more about TeamMates and had become interested in volunteering as TeamMates mentor, he heard about Law's situation. Roland contacted the school Principal to not only begin mentoring, but to specifically mentor Law. "I said I would be honored to be his TeamMate."
Law's family members are Burmese immigrants and Law is not only completing his middle school coursework, he must learn in the unfamiliar language of English. He is learning English as part of the regular curriculum.
Roland and Law began meeting during the 2011-2012 academic year with the help of interpreter, Kehler Wah, who also works at TMCO and is on record as Law's other TeamMate. Keh, as he prefers, met Roland when another TMCO employee needed an interpreter. Keh later applied to work at TMCO.
Keh believes the TeamMates program is very helpful to students from other countries as a way to make it easier for them to learn within their new home. He also very much appreciates that TMCO provides opportunities for the employees to volunteer at the school.
Law's appreciation for the program and Roland was evidenced in his choice of clothing for the day of the interview and the TeamMates of the Month photo. Law's shirt is handmade and, according to his culture, worn only on special days and holidays, Keh said.
In the beginning, Keh came to all the weekly meetings, Roland said, but now he and Law have learned how to communicate with each other and don't need Keh's help as often.
Law's favorite activities include games of Rock, Paper Scissors and drawing. Roland and he communicate and work on the English alphabet by drawing pictures. Roland said one of the big differences that Law must deal with, is that his native written language reads from right to left while English reads from left to right.
Law is a very good artist and not surprisingly, art is one of his favorite school subjects. He also agreed that TeamMates has helped him improve his reading and writing skills.
Law has come a long way, Roland said proudly. "Soon we're going to soon be able to talk with each other and be friends."
Roland said he finds the process of giving the most rewarding aspect of being a part of TeamMates. He appreciates the opportunity it gives him to be able to help Law. Roland noted that Law always has a big smile on his face when he comes from the classroom to meet with him.
They also like to create and complete craft projects. "Ashleigh is really creative and artsy," Sue said. "We've completed sewing projects and we've done some baking to celebrate the end of the school year." They have also made jewelry and faux painted small bottles.
"We do a lot of artsy stuff and then we talk at the same time. And we laugh. We laugh a lot." Sue said.
In the course of talking and laughing they have also learned some important lessons from each other. One of the most important lessons Ashleigh said she has learned from Sue is to always pursue your dreams and reach for your goals.
By being a part of TeamMates, Ashleigh has come to understand "that there are goals in life to shoot for." Ashleigh's goals are to graduate from high school, go to college and enjoy a good career in nursing or as a special education teacher. Or, she may want to work with animals, possibly in animal rescue. She is sure she wants a career that allows her to help others.
"Ashleigh has a big heart and she is always very thoughtful," Sue said.
"I've learned to be nice to everybody," Ashleigh said, "help others if they need help, and always pursue your dreams."
Sue became interested in TeamMates after hearing about it from program founder, Dr. Tom Osborne. Sue learned that her employer, Lincoln Electric System (LES), supports TeamMates and that there were other LES co-workers volunteering as TeamMates mentors. "Thanks to LES, I was able to be a part of the program." LES allows their employees the time and flexibility to participate. "They allow us a lot of flexibility and time to set up what works best with my schedule and what is most convenient for both of us, which I think is wonderful."
At first, Sue said she was really nervous about becoming a TeamMate. She hadn't had a lot of experience with children. However, she kept hearing about how rewarding it is to be a TeamMate.
She said her goal is to follow Ashleigh through high school and college as well. "I've enjoyed watching her grow and mature and seeing how she changes." She likes to listen to Ashleigh's dreams and plans. "I want to do anything I can to help her achieve her dreams and plans. The reward of being a TeamMate is beyond what I had anticipated.
"We know that all TeamMates relationships are valuable and important, but we always refer to each other as ‘THE BEST TEAMMATE EVER!'"
Rice' said he first learned about the TeamMates program at school from his school facilitator, Cheri Parent. Dave learned of the program through his Kiwanis service club. "Our mission in Kiwanis is to change the world one child, in one community at a time, so TeamMates seemed like a perfect fit."
This is Dave's first TeamMates match. "I've been involved in lots of volunteer activities. This one seems to matter the most. We never miss a week," he said as he smiled at Rice'. "We reschedule for later in the week, if my work gets in the way."
Rice' appreciates Dave's help with school work. "He helps me stay on task." They have worked on writing and spelling. Rice's favorite school subject is math and he wants to go to college after he graduates from high school. He thinks he'd like to become an architect and would enjoy using the computer to design buildings. He's interested in creating some special buildings for children.
The two share a common interest in basketball. They head to the gym for most of their weekly meetings. Dave proudly indicated that Rice' has become a very good player. "It's been interesting because in 3rd grade, Rice' couldn't beat me in HORSE and now he can." Rice' has also enjoyed learning some magic tricks from Dave. They are currently trying to master a very complicated magic trick using playing cards.
In addition to having fun, this pair has learned from each other. Rice' said he has learned that it is important to be seen as a role model for other children at school. Dave said he has learned about leadership. "Rice' is already a leader. He has this natural gift."
Dave encourages other adults to become TeamMates mentors. "If you think you are too busy or you're waiting to be a TeamMates mentor, don't. It's an hour a week with the best rewards you could ever imagine."
Krien, who was also very pleased to find out about the nomination, said, "TeamMates allows these two to be friends and supportive of each other. They've been together for three years. Each has an understanding and a genuine fondness for the other.
"Phyllis seems to know when to talk and when to listen. There seems to be balance in their relationship that allows each of them to support each other; encourage each other and enjoy each other in just the right way. It's a connection graced with understanding, kindness and patience."
Phyllis said she first learned of TeamMates in the media. She is a retired nurse. In addition to being able to work with a student, she enjoys that TeamMates helps her have filled and fulfilling days. "You are doing something to help someone. I enjoy Lisa. She is a sweet little girl." She also said, "Lisa keeps me young. She keeps me up on things."
Lisa's favorite aspect of TeamMates is that she has Phyllis as her mentor. Regarding the TeamMates program, Lisa feels it is a good program because students get to build a relationship with another adult. "It is good because you get to talk to them and discuss problems. Sometimes you get help with homework." Lisa said that a lot of her friends also have TeamMates and look forward to spending time with them. Lisa said she is thankful she has Phyllis as her TeamMate.
While they chat about what is going on in Lisa's life, they also play games and Yahtzee is one of their favorites. Phyllis said proudly, "Lisa is really good at games."
Lisa is also in intramural sports at her middle school. She is playing volleyball now and plans to play basketball next season. "She's very good," Phyllis said.
Some of their conversations focus on Lisa's future and even though she is still in middle school, they have talked about after high school.
After graduation, Lisa hopes to pursue a post-secondary education in photography. When Lisa received her first camera, she said, she took pictures of birds, trees and her dog -- animal subjects are a favorite. Photography is something she's always been interested in and a career goal is to expand on her talent so that someday she could take pictures for National Geographic.
"Their relationship is solid," said Krien. "Everyone needs a person who just seems to know. Everyone needs a TeamMate."
As Dorie recalls, her parents found out about the TeamMates program and after talking it over with her, they nominated her for the program. Sarah was looking for a way to volunteer because she was aware of the number of children in the community who needed one-to-one time with an adult. She knew she could be the supportive mentor and friend a student needs.
"At the time I lived across the street from Prescott, so I thought ‘ok I will meet with a student at Prescott; that would be really convenient.'" Fast forward several years; it has worked out great.
"If I would have known, up-front that I was going to be meeting with the same student for eight years, I would of thought, no, that was too daunting," but she decided, "I can make a one-year commitment and then will re-evaluate at the end of the year. And every year, at the end of the year we would say, ‘should we meet again next year?' So, I went to Prescott, and Irving, and Park, and Lincoln High and pretty soon Dorie is going to be graduating."
Both are somewhat amazed by the fact that they have known each other through many changes. Dorie has matured from an elementary student who at first used to look forward to getting out of class and playing games during their meetings. While Sarah has advanced in her career and become a mom. "I have known her most of her life at this point," Sarah said.
"Almost half of my life she has known me, so it's a wonderful thing to find an adult who is willing to be less of an adult and more of a friend."
"We used to play toss-across," Sarah said. "So our conversations have changed."
Dorie agrees. Since middle school, they have talked about and planned for college, looked at Websites and discussed the classes she'd need in high school in order to be ready for college.
Dorie has almost "always" been certain of her career path. She plans to attend the pre-veterinarian program at UNL. When she has completed that, she will attend Iowa State to complete veterinarian school as part of the cooperative program between the University of Nebraska and Iowa State University.
Animals have always been a passion for Dorie. "We'd meet and she would tell me every detail about every squirrel on the way to school," Sarah said with a smile.
Dorie credits Sarah for helping her become more focused academically and with goal-setting.
"Academics were never a problem for Dorie. She was always interested in reading and learning things on her own." Sarah helped her work on balancing what she wanted to do with what she needed to do. Today she is much more able to look ahead and prioritize. Along the way, Dorie has learned that she enjoys challenging herself and as a result has taken several advanced placement classes and four years of German.
Sarah says she likes being a part of TeamMates. "It's not about some adult coming in to fix a problem for a kid … but, just to be there and to listen." She appreciates that students need to just talk or play games, and know that the person is going to be there regularly to check in and listen to what they are thinking about. The students also understand that in the case of most problems, the mentor is not going to intervene or call them into the office.
"It's been fun to watch you just become a new adult person," Sarah said proudly.
"I think I am a better person for it," Dorie said.
When they first started meeting, Dorie said, she liked being a part of the TeamMates program because she could get out of class. "Now it is more about being able to interact with a person who's there to support you. And the only thing they are getting out of it is just the satisfaction of being able to help a student. I think everyone would benefit from at least some time with a TeamMate. It is great to have that one person who says "you can do this, you're good at it, I know you can."
They have been matched and meeting since December of 2008, when Kendell was still attending elementary school.
When asked what is his favorite part of the TeamMates program, Kendell said, it has helped him complete the work he knows he needs to finish, for example school assignments. That aspect of their relationship has provided growing experience for both of them.
Kendell said that Rich has helped him to learn to work on his assignments and to make them a priority. He says he has improved at getting them done.
For Rich, the process has taught him patience. There were times when they first started meeting, that Rich felt he wanted to help Kendell be more focused. However, after getting to know Kendell better, Rich has learned "Kendell wants to take his time and get it right rather than rush things. He will get it done and that is the bottom line."
Rich, who works in the Lincoln Public Schools District Office within the Print Department, finds the TeamMates mentoring program appealing for many reasons. He has enjoyed getting to know Kendell. His own children are grown and he likes the opportunity to again be a part of what is going on within schools. He added that he is pleased to see the changes and growth he has noticed Kendell attain. "I look forward to spending time with him."
When they meet, they play games such as UNO, which helps with math skills, and they like to look up the Lego Website and play games. They also like to compete against each other in basketball and depending on the weather, will either play in the gym or outside.
One of their favorite pastimes is to read to each other. They read past favorites and have found new ones.
As an example of Kendell's love of reading, Rich proudly shared a story about how Kendell would keep a book set aside so that it was ready for them to read the next time they were together. "Kendell really loves to read."
They have talked about setting goals for Kendell's future. He wants to attend college someday. They have talked about achieving goals. "Anything is possible," Rich said. "Your education is what you need to back it."
Kendell said several of his friends wish they could have a TeamMate like Rich.
"I have a good person here," Rich said.
Kendell responded "I know I do."
De has been a part of the Lincoln TeamMates program since 2007 when she and her mentee, Robert, were matched.
In those five years, Robert said, "She has helped me a lot."
De has helped with school and family. Robert's mother passed away when he was younger and De has helped him with education. As is sometimes the case with TeamMates mentors and mentees, De has become acquainted with Robert's family.
"If I had trouble with assignments, she would help me," Robert said. "The most important thing about TeamMates is that they help you a lot and teach you how to move on in your future."
De and Robert have attended some of the TeamMates sponsored programs. Robert also credits De with helping him to get into an educational situation that has worked for him and helped him to get better grades. He has also learned from De to "never give up. Get on with what you have to do. Education has a big impact on your life."
Sometimes having transportation to school was an issue for Robert and De helped him utilize the city buses. Also, he said, she has helped him to plan ahead.
Robert said his favorite part of the TeamMates program is that it helps students get through high school and helps them prepare for the future.
De said she likes that she is able to get to know a young person. For De, being a mentor has made her realize the challenges there are for many families. It has been a reality check in so many ways. She says she has been reminded of the value of perseverance.
Robert will graduate mid-summer. He and De are looking forward to celebrating his graduation. Robert also plans to attend Southeast Community College.
De is also a mentor to another student as part of the Lincoln TeamMates High School Graduation Initiative Grant. She heartily encourages other adults to get involved.
Ehan has enjoyed being a part of the TeamMates program because he values Bruce's friendship and has had the opportunity to meet Bruce's son who has also become a friend.
Ehan believes that having a TeamMate during high school can help students "set up for success for life."
"We started my freshman year, the program really helped me. We talked about life and what I was going to do that day. We talked about college and actual classes and how I could better myself," Ehan said. "It really helped me mature and finish up high school with a really strong role model in my life."
Bruce is a part of the TeamMates program because he feels his life has been blessed. "I like to give back to society if I can and if I see people I can help, I love doing it."
Bruce said that he has very much enjoyed watching Ehan mature and plan for his future. He also praised Ehan for setting a good example for his younger brother.
When Bruce and Ehan meet, they talk about economics, track and field and other sports events and practice card tricks. Cribbage is one of their newest favorites.
Ehan said Bruce has helped him to stay focused in school and has helped him grow as a person. He has been a good guide.
"Once you meet a young man like Ehan and watch him mature and see him start trying to do things right, work hard and improve, be a good role model for his brother."
Bruce has enjoyed that Ehan has transitioned from an immature 9th grader to a mature young man with a good solid plan for the future.
Ehan has been recruited to play football at Wayne State. He and another friend will be going to Wayne State, on the football team together and ride sharing to and from college.
Ehan plans to pursue study and eventually a career in sports management. He is also interested in getting an elementary education certification.
TeamMates congratulates Ehan on his recent high school graduation!
They began meeting when Itzayana was in 7th grade. Portia, who has been a part of the TeamMates program since 1999 and was a 2011 recipient of the Decade of Difference Award, enjoys having a friend in the school system and she has really enjoyed becoming friends with Itzayana.
Itzayana was born in Mexico, Portia said. "We have shared so much." Portia has gained understanding of Itzayana's culture and has learned about her family's traditions. One of the highlights of their friendship was being included in Itzayana's Quinceañera.
Itzayana said Quinceañera is a widespread traditional in her culture. The Quinceañera is a coming of age ceremony that celebrates the 15th birthday of a young girl as she transitions into becoming a young woman. Part of Itzayana's celebration included religious observance and a party with many relatives and friends. It was a very important celebration and Portia said she was very pleased to be able to share it with them.
Itzayana also appreciates that Portia has been there for her in other aspects of life and high school. Portia has helped her keep focus on school. She stated, "You grow close to them. Having a TeamMate keeps you focused on achieving your goals and overcoming obstacles."
Itzayana helped her parents when her mother was diagnosed and subsequently treated for cancer. "Itzayana stepped up and helped her dad. I was really proud of her," Portia said.
Itzayana said she used to miss school sometimes, but since Portia became part of her life, she doesn't miss very often.
They have developed a relationship that allows them to freely share ideas and feelings. They look forward to their meetings. There is always a lot to do, whether it is completing homework, playing games or working on crafts. They have also worked together on service projects including one in which they completed fleece blankets that were then donated to Cedars.
Since Itzayana will graduate in May, this has been a very busy year completing scholarship applications and making specific plans for Itzayana to begin her program of study in the medical field.
Itzayana has the goal of becoming an oncologist. She has a well thought-out plan of the steps to help her achieve that goal. She first plans to complete the CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant) course. This will allow her to work and learn within the medical profession. She will start this summer in the UNL pre-health program.
Such is the situation for the April 2012 TeamMates of the month, Judi Yost and Marissa. Mrs. Yost is a teacher at Dawes Middle school and a TeamMates Facilitator. She has been a part of the TeamMates program for more than 16 years. Marissa is a former Dawes student. They have been TeamMates since December 2008 when Marissa was in 8th grade at Dawes. Marissa is looking forward to graduating from North Star High School in May.
What is their favorite thing about being TeamMates? The most special thing about their relationship is all the laughs they share on the bad days, Marissa said.
"We just make each other laugh," said Mrs. Yost. "We always leave on a better note than when we came, no matter what we do."
They talk about jobs and relationships, school, work and family.
"I think it is important to note that the relationship hasn't just happened overnight. It has taken many years of time. We respect each other. We know each other. We coach each other," Mrs. Yost said. She appreciates having a high school mentee because it helps her stay in touch with what is going on in high schools.
Marissa has enjoyed hearing about Mrs. Yost's daughters who are just a few years older than she. She has learned from some of their experiences and she believes this along with other aspects of the TeamMates relationship has helped her grow, learn and given her the confidence to set and follow her own path. She said she has learned to avoid some of the issues other students have fallen into. Marissa shared a very concrete example of how their TeamMates relationship changed the course of her life.
Being in TeamMates helped her overcome feelings of low self-esteem that were brought on by bullying while she was in middle school. She wanted to be elected to the student council at Dawes, yet she was really afraid of having to speak in front of the student body. She and Mrs. Yost worked out ways for Marissa to feel supported and Mrs. Yost helped her prepare her speech. Not only was Marissa elected to serve on the council, but she was elected council president.
"Now," Marissa said, "it is easy to make presentations. I do it all the time."
Since she's moved into high school, Mrs. Yost has helped her deal with many issues and deal with some disappointments. "She's helped with scholarships. We meet every week."
Marissa plans to start at Southeast Community College this summer in the academic transfer program. She intends to complete one of the medical-field programs. She currently works part time at a retirement community and is getting some experience that she believes will help in her future career.
Mrs. Yost was quick to point out that Marissa is very responsible. She is a very well rounded person and she works very hard in school and in other aspects of her life.
Marissa credits Mrs. Yost for being her best friend. "She's helped me through everything. She supports me in my decisions. We check up on each other, she's with me. She's always a leader for me. She's always pushing me to do my best. We keep each other organized."
Mrs. Yost said, "It has just been a delight to be a part of her life and to watch her grow. Especially when you can look back and see why we started to where we are today. She is a phenomenal young lady. I've tried to be a good role model for her. She's been a good role model for me.
"She'll always be a part of my life. I trust her with my life. We will be friends forever."
They are both looking forward to Marissa's high school graduation, yet both will miss being in their match.
Marissa has stayed invested in the happenings at Dawes and Mrs. Yost's role as a TeamMates School Facilitator. "Any time I have pizza parties, she helps," Mrs. Yost said. "Anything I need she helps out. She's always there for me. She keeps me from getting too wound up. I'm so going to miss it next year."
While the end of the school year brings about the closing of their TeamMates match, it really is only the beginning. Next fall when Marissa turns 19, she will apply to become a TeamMates mentor and she will be back at Dawes making a difference in the life of another student there.
Trever and Scott started meeting when Trevor was in Pershing Elementary and Scott was still in high school. Pershing Pals is a program offered at Lincoln Northeast High School that matches Northeast students with Pershing Elementary students.
Scott said he tried the Pershing Pals because he enjoyed being a part of other high school activities such as honor society and student council. It was also appealing because in addition to sounding fun, many of his friends were doing it. "After that Trever and I just clicked. We had a great time."
When Scott graduated from Northeast High School in 2004 and started college at Nebraska Wesleyan, he and Trever wanted to continue meeting so they moved into the TeamMates program. They have been building their friendship since. "We kept meeting and it has just worked out for the both of us," Scott said. Trever is like the younger brother he never had.
They have built a close relationship. Sometimes they play cards so that they have something to do while they talk, but mostly they just like to spend their time together talking. "It's good to have a guy TeamMate," Trever said. "We play games. I mostly like to talk about what's going on and what we are doing. Homework is a once in a while thing. Just hanging out is pretty cool." Trever is a high school senior this year. Trever expects that right after graduation, he will join the National Guard or another branch of the military, but his life-long dream is "to become a cop." Scott's dad is a Lincoln police officer. This afforded Trever an opportunity to job shadow.
Trever said Scott has helped him with goal setting and trying to understand different issues, "all of that." They discuss actions that Trever might try in order to facilitate change.
When faced with challenges, "Scott has helped me through it every step of the way."
Scott says the real value of their relationship is the consistent nature of the relationship. "We both know that there's no judgment in our relationship. We both can be open and honest with each other."
"When I tell other people that I'm a part of the TeamMamtes organization and when I mention how long I've done it, I try to show the impact it has on someone else. The impact is a mutual thing. Trever has made me grow and become a better person as much as I hope that I've done that for him. The thing I tell my friends… ‘I'm 26 years old. I'm three years out of college… I tell them… you should definitely do this… this is a great opportunity,….it will impact your life… but also realize going in to it… the commitment and the heart you are going to take into it.'"
Part of being able to foster a long-term relationship comes about because both parties realize that no relationship moves smoothly forward. There are always times when things aren't the most comfortable. That is just part of the friendship or it is part of being a family, Scott said. The key is "to keep going, keep meeting. If you can grow something, it's great."
Harold Dorssom became a mentor after hearing about the TeamMates program from a couple other very active mentors in the Sunrise Kiwanis Club. He became interested in the program and liked the idea of being able to make a difference. It is significant to him that he can be a positive influence in someone else's life.
Harold and Demontre were matched in 2008 when Demontre was in 4th grade. Demontre is currently in 7th grade.
Harold said he is pleased that he has been able to help Demontre set goals and see him achieve them. "It makes me feel good to know that I can help him actually do that.
"Demontre has set goals. He's achieved goals. He's gained confidence to set goals. That has led to him achieve goals. By setting goals and achieving them, he's learned he can guide himself down his own pathways. He can set his own course."
Demontre said he's learned the he likes getting his work done. Harold has helped him practice for upcoming tests.
When they meet, they often play chess. Harold laughingly shared that he has not won more than once in five years!
"Demontre really seems to understand the concept. You've got to watch him. He sets you up and sets traps. He's good at games."
Working with Harold has helped Demontre with self-confidence. He has also enjoyed improved grades, Demontre said.
Demontre is also an artist. Harold proudly added that Demontre is very good. "I can see him working for Hallmark."
Becoming a cartoonist is one of the career paths Demontre is considering. In addition to playing games, they capitalize on Demontre's artistic talents and drawing skills. Demontre likes to create cards for family.
"He's really thoughtful. I'm proud of him for doing that," Harold said.
Domentre countered with a compliment for Harold, "He's a fine person."
Basketball is another of Demontre's interests.
He's a good basketball player and Harold thinks he could probably have a career in that as well. Playing basketball is another way they spend their time together. Additionally, the two of them have gone to the TeamMates basketball games at UNL and Creighton in previous years.
Harold mentioned that Demontre is beginning to take on leadership roles in class. He proudly continued, since they started to meet, Demontre has improved in so many ways.
"I'm really proud of him. He's gained a lot of confidence. He can do whatever he wants to do."
She started with her first TeamMates student in 2003. She said her first TeamMate taught her how to deal with children who don't have a perfect world to live in.
Kathy strongly believes in the TeamMates program. "It helps students realize there's a future for them after high school. It doesn't have to be a four year college, but there are opportunities." She believes in "never letting kids sell themselves short."
Hope is important. "You have to give them hope and a feeling that the future belongs to them. Their destiny is right there in their hands. Nobody else gets to control their destiny but them."
Also, it is important for the students to know that someone will advocate for them when they need it.
Kathy said being a TeamMate fills a void. After her own children were grown and out of the home, becoming a part of TeamMates gave her an opportunity to get back into the schools. She enjoys being a part of her TeamMates' academics and activities, she likes to cheer them on and be proud of them. "I love to be around teenagers."
Kathy currently mentors Staci and theirs is a unique TeamMates relationship. Kathy is Stacia's aunt in addition to being her TeamMates mentor. They have been meeting since 2005.
When Stacia was in 3rd grade she wanted some academic assistance and Kathy wanted to help. She believed that working within the TeamMates program would be a great option because of the security in place and the opportunities to work within Stacia's class schedule.
Stacia, who is currently in 9th grade, said the part of TeamMates she most appreciates is having individualized time with her aunt. Kathy agrees it is nice that they have special time together.
Stacia said she also likes being able to tell her aunt about what is going on in her life.
"We have a level of trust, don't we?" Kathy responded.
Kathy believes being a TeamMate gives Stacia a focus in school and helps her understand the problems associated with growing up. One of the life-lessons they recently discussed is the process of making good decisions.
Stacia has learned that one way to view a decision is to question who might be affected. "If it hurts you or anybody else, it's a bad decision," Stacia said.
"Everybody makes mistakes. It's what we learn from them and not repeating them," Kathy said.
When they meet for their TeamMates time they spend some of the time playing computer games or cards in addition to talking with each other.
"She's my aunt, but I can tell her almost anything. She helps me when I need help. She gives me advice. She helps with homework."
Stacia hasn't decided on a career path yet, but she is considering becoming a lawyer or perhaps getting into forensic science. She has long had an interest in science and finds her biology class to be a favorite.
Kathy encourages others to be a part of the TeamMates program. "I think more people should reach out and become TeamMates. The impact on their own lives is incredible. Meeting one day a week with a young person adds value not just to the student's life, but to the adult's life. You create a friend forever.
"Stacia and I will always have a special bond."
Sara loves to cook and enjoys classes about foods and wellness. She's been cooking a long time and she likes to cook "anything and everything." Sara's favorite school subjects are math and English and when she and Carolin meet they sometimes talk about grades and homework, but mostly they just talk. "We talk a lot," Sara said. Sara also credits Carolin with helping her get organized and staying organized.
"Staying organized is an ongoing process for all of us," Carolin said.
Additionally, Carolin said they are already exploring post-secondary education opportunities and job shadowing. Because of Sara's interest in cooking, she's considering a college culinary program.
"I love Sara's enthusiasm. She's a happy person and she makes me smile. Sara's a loyal friend and has lots of potential. She's disciplined and very mature."
Carolin added that one of her favorite facets of the program is that she knows more about today's youth. Sara is in the same generation as Carolin's twenty-something sons. "I value her insight as a young woman in this era which includes all the technology and social media." Also, Sara helps her with social networking and texting abbreviations.
"I have met several of Sara's family members. I've enjoyed lots of family stories, many of them humorous. I feel fortunate to be a part of Sara's life."
They have attended previous TeamMates activities and are looking forward to attending the upcoming TeamMates Recognition Event on Jan 26th.
"We do a lot of stuff together," Sara said. In fact, they have made TeamMates presentations at the Kiwanis Convention in Omaha and at Lincoln Rotary #14. Carolin is the Chairperson of the Rotary and TeamMates Partnership.
"Sara did an incredible public speaking job," Carolin said. At the Kiwanis Convention they were part of breakout sessions and were able to provide information about TeamMates to many Kiwanis members. At Rotary, she spoke to nearly 200 Rotarians and they talked about what their mentoring relationship has meant to them. "Sara finished up with stating that she thought lots of the people at the meeting should be mentors!"
The TeamMates program has been important to Sara. "If I didn't have Carolin in my life, I probably wouldn't have the higher standards that I have now."
The High School Initiative Grant program features 60 mentors who are matched with 9th graders at North Star, Lincoln High, & Northeast. These mentors and mentees will be able to use the Strength-Finder surveys to pinpoint their strengths. Strengths building will add an additional facet within the relationship building between the mentors and mentees. The goal is for these matches to remain in place until the student graduates from high school.
For their first session, Schuyler and Jerry spent their time chatting, getting acquainted and discovering shared interests.
Schuyler said, "I like computers and electronics and books." He prefers fiction.
Jerry also likes to read and he enjoys novels. Education and teaching have long been a part of his life and while he is semi-retired, he continues to teach. He was the Executive Director of the Nebraska Council of School Administrators and has taught business classes and the University of Nebraska's College of Business Administration for much of his career.
Jerry has been a TeamMates mentor since 2001. Schuyler is Jerry's third mentee. "I was excited to hear that Schuyler has already decided that he wants to graduate from high school and he wants to graduate from college."
Schuyler likes the idea of being in the TeamMates program for many reasons, but he specifically appreciates the opportunity to get to know someone from outside of school and "to have another trusting adult in my life."
Jerry likes being a part of TeamMates because it provides the opportunity to get to know a student and offers a view of student life today. Jerry also hopes that he's able to share some of his experience with the issues that students are dealing with.
Both are excited to be a part of the High School Initiative Grant program. Jerry and Schuyler plan to work together to build on Schuyler's strengths and work to further develop them so Schuyler can reach his goal of high school graduation and college graduation.
As the two planned their next one-hour meeting, Jerry asked Schuyler if he knows how to play chess. Schuyler said he'd belonged to Chess Club in second grade and sometimes plays with his grandfather.
"I want to learn how to play chess," Jerry said excitedly. He's looking forward to playing with Schuyler and also hopes to challenge his grandson after he learns the game - looks like this match is off to a winning start!
Mohamed and Dr. Doug Christensen have been matched since Mohamed was in the 6th grade. This year, Mohamed recently began as a junior in high school. Mohamed said he appreciates that when he needs someone to talk to, Dr. Christensen is always there.
During their time together, they discuss grades and how Mohamed is doing in school. Chemistry and history are a couple of favorite school subjects. They also talk about social studies, Dr. Christensen said. They discuss the difference in cultures and Mohamed has shared issues that face the country from which he emigrated, Sudan. Dr. Christensen complimented Mohamed on his deep understanding of cultural issues, especially for someone his age.
Dr. Christensen says that he has gained a better understanding of Muslim culture and beliefs and a better understanding of the North/South civil war. They have discussed the social implications regarding both racial and cultural issues. But most important, Dr. Christensen said, they talk about basketball. They each have a favorite team and good-naturedly square off about which is the better, the Miami Heat which is Mohamed's team and Dr. Christensen's team, the Boston Celtics. A little bantering seems to also be a part of their conversations.
Dr. Christensen was proud to state that Mohamed is also a track star. He won the all-class gold in the 1600 Run in the State Track Meet last May. And, as a sophomore he was named the honorary captain of the All-City Cross Country meet.
Dr. Christensen likes to attend Mohamed's sporting events to cheer him on. "I don't miss too many of his events."
In addition to sports, Mohamed also enjoys hanging out with his friends and playing video games. He has started to think about college and would like to go to Oregon University because it is a premier track school. He is also considering the University of Nebraska, Doane College and Nebraska Wesleyan.
How has being TeamMates helped both of them? Being with Mohamed gives Dr. Christensen a chance to remember what it is like to be 16 again. He gets to see the world through his eyes plus has the opportunity learn about his background. "He has a fascinating background. He has a positive way of looking at and respecting his background and culture without it being foremost. He remembers his roots, yet he is as American as anyone I know."
Mohamed has learned to "look toward the future. You can't just focus on the here and now. Plus," he said with a smile, "he's old. He'd know all that." All kidding aside, Mohamed said "He's there for me."
What is Mackenzie's favorite part of having a mentor? "We get to play games and spend time with each other."
"We like playing games don't we?" Cheri responded with a smile.
Some of the games they like to play are Uno, Connect 4, and Checkers. They agree it's a toss-up as to who wins the most often. They also talk about family and pets. They both have dogs. Mackenzie shares what her older sisters are doing. Sometimes they do arts and crafts. Mackenzie made a keychain and she made a necklace that she is wearing in the photo.
Cheri likes "spending time together and getting to know each other. Mackenzie has a big heart and is very caring. She is helpful to her classmates and always willing to lend a hand."
Cheri said she's looking forward to getting back into regular weekly visits each week for the school year. During the summer they keep in touch via the phone. Also, since Mackenzie attended the TeamMates Abbott Sports camps this summer, she and Cheri were able to meet there once since Abbott Sports Center is one of the approved sites for mentors and mentees to meet during the summer.
Mackenzie also appreciates being a TeamMate because she had the opportunity to go to camp. This year she was fortunate to receive a scholarship to the Abbott Sports camps and also Camp Kitaki.
Camp in the summer is really helpful to Mackenzie. Her neighborhood has very few children living nearby and her siblings are older.
Cheri got involved in TeamMates through work at State Farm. The company promotes volunteerism and is very supportive of TeamMates mentoring. Cheri said, "State Farm is always encouraging employees to volunteer and especially supports the TeamMates program. The company reminds employees about the number of students still waiting for a mentor."
State Farm offers their employees the annual opportunity to bring their TeamMates mentees to work to show what hard work and school can do for you. This is a half day when employees get to share their job and take the kids on tour of the building.
Mackenzie attended with Cheri last year. Mackenzie said she was especially impressed with the demonstration of how the Arson Dog could find the scent of drop of gasoline. This is how the dog alerts the handler of how a fire was probably started.
Mackenzie's favorite school subjects are language arts and she likes to read. Cheri says she always asks Mackenzie how she's doing with her homework, "but Mackenzie keeps up with that on her own. She's good with homework."
Cheri has two teenage sons. She enjoys having a chance to spend time with a girl. She appreciates that Mackenzie's mom is willing the share her daughter with her.
Mackenzie's mom, who joined them for the Abbott meeting, said Cheri has helped Mackenzie grow in self-confidence. As she has gained self-confidence her grades have also improved.
Darveon is especially knowledgeable about football. He enjoys playing all sports, but especially football and basketball. For one meeting during the summer, the two met out at the Abbott Sports Center while Darveon was attending the summer sports camps. This summer was Darveon's second year at the Sports Camp. He likes the learning opportunities the camps provide.
When he and Howard meet during the school year, Darveon said he enjoys that they play "paper basketball." But, first they do homework. Then they check on grades.
Darveon appreciates Howard's help with homework. "I like to finish my homework so I don't have to do it at home."
Howard's favorite part about being a TeamMates mentor and meeting with Darveon is that he likes being around a young person who is "so energetic. "Howard has 15 year-old-daughter. Sometimes Darveon helps me interpret what she's saying. Darveon helps to keep me young," Howard said.
Howard works for the U.S. Postal Service and is part of the management of Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas. He and Darveon meet nearly every week during the school year. "We never miss," said Howard, "unless I‘m out of town."
Howard has mentored three other students. He believes mentoring benefits him as much or more than it benefits the students. "Adults hear lots of negative things about kids that aren't necessarily true," he said.
Darveon has lots of friends and Howard has had the opportunity to meet some of them. He's found them to be "energetic, positive, bright and courteous." It makes him feel positive about the next generation and the future.
Darveon has also given some thought to the future. He likes math and the English arts and believes he may want to study business when he goes to college.
During their meeting time of one hour, once a week during the school year they spend some time just chatting. "I want her to always feel comfortable with me," Chi said. "I want our time together to accentuate who she is as an individual."
Bobbi especially enjoys talking with Chi. They discuss what's been going on during the week and how each feels about it. Bobbi said she appreciates the opportunity to express her feelings.
Bobbi likes being a part of the TeamMates program because she has another adult to count on. "It feels like there's somebody in addition to family that cares for you and you can count on them."
It's also fun. "Chi and I joke around and we have a similar sense of humor. We don't keep everything so serious. We both have serious lives and this is our time to joke around and relax a little."
Chi is an on air personality at KFRX radio station. She also is journalism major and probably because of that, she and Bobbi spend about 15 minutes working on creative writing. They randomly look through some of the books in the Media Center where they meet. Then they sit down and collaborate about a creative story which Bobbi takes a few minutes to write.
Chi said she is so amazed by Bobbi. "She is not your average 14-year-old. She puts her friends before herself. She's so aware of other people's feelings." Chi says Bobbi has an unusual grasp and understanding of what's going on in her world. "She thinks above and beyond her years."
"When I look at Chi, that is the person I wish I could be," said Bobbi. "She's doing what she wants to do. She's going to school and working at the station. That makes me feel that there is a possibility that I could achieve my dreams too."
Bobbi wants to be a photographer and she said she may want to become a photojournalist.
During the summer, they are keeping contact on Facebook.
Bryan is a 5th grader at Prescott Elementary School. He is a young man with many interests. He sings and plays the trombone. He's part of the 5th grade band and has participated in the school concerts.
He likes science and enjoys conducting experiments. He found learning how to clean oil from water particularly interesting. He also likes learning about pre-historic creatures, especially dinosaurs.
When at home, Bryan likes spending time training and playing with his 2½ year old puppy, Peanut.
Mr. McDermott is the Principal at Irving Middle School and has been at Irving for the past 7 years. Previously he was the Principal at Lefler Middle School and on staff at Goodrich. (Many teachers, administrators and retired LPS staff participate as mentors in the Lincoln TeamMates program and Mr. McDermott has chosen to spend one hour, once a week with a TeamMates student.)
Mr. McDermott proudly shares that Bryan is computer savvy and good in science and math. He pointed out that Bryan also likes building things, and taking mechanical things apart to see how they work.
Bryan says that he's also learned more about math since he's been meeting with Mr. McDermott, and another of his favorite things about being matched with Mr. McDermott is that he's learning what it will be like at Irving Middle School next year.
Bryan's sister is already attending Irving, and he has some idea of what it's like to be a middle school student, but his time with Mr. McDermott is also helping him prepare.
Learning is a two-way street within TeamMates. "Bryan is teaching me patience and to slow down." They have lunch together and Mr. McDermott says he's learning to eat slower, which is better for him.
Mr. McDermott said he likes being a mentor because it is a way for him to become more connected with the children. It is a way to give back. He said he's worked with many mentors at both Lefler and Irving who lead incredibly busy lives. If they can take time out, he decided he could as well.
Rhonda is a mother figure in Daisy's life. "Rhonda does a lot for me," Daisy said, "She actually loves me. She treats me like I'm her daughter." Daisy really enjoys the time they spend together. She and Rhonda go to the movies and sometimes out to dinner.
There is paper work to complete, but Rhonda finds it fun to do things outside of school from time to time.
During their TeamMates time at school they sometimes read. They both liked reading the "Twilight" series which is a popular combination of horror, action and romance. They also like to walk, sometimes inside the school and sometimes outside around the school campus.
Daisy likes being outside and observing the weather, so much so, she is considering going on to school to be a meteorologist. However, she's a young woman with many interests. She might like to be a lawyer. She also likes to cook, and believes she's pretty good at it. "I can cook anything and everything." She has taught herself to cook. "I teach myself how to do a lot of things."
Rhonda decided to become a TeamMate because she wanted to find a way to give back. She said she was shy when she was in school. "I could have used something like that when I was young."
Rhonda likes spending time with Daisy and tries to encourage her to stay on the right path. "Daisy is a smart girl. She's got a ton of potential and she's going to do great things in life."
Kristian likes board games such as Aggravation and to complete puzzles. He's taught Janet a few new card games.
Janet proudly states that since they've been meeting, Kristian has become more of a gracious winner.
Kristian, a 4th grader at Pershing Elementary, hopes to become more involved in sports such as soccer and football. He is also learning to play the violin.
Janet says she is looking forward to hearing him play and hopes to attend an end of the year recital. Music is a favorite for Kristian.
Janet and Kristian started meeting in January 2010. When she and Kristian first started meeting, he was a little shy, but now he's usually impatiently waiting for her to get there.
Kristian is Janet's second Teammate. She started in the TeamMates program in December of 2007. After her first mentee moved to Fremont, Janet took some time off from the TeamMates program but now she and Kristian are becoming good friends.
"He's a good kid, a very good kid, and we always have a good time with each other."
Janet is very proud of how Kristian has progressed this year. They talk about what is going on with him. They play games and also talk about good sportsmanship, how to make friends and how to maintain good friendships.
"I'm so proud of him this year," Janet says, "he's doing so well."
Ryan is a sophomore at UNL. His major is in athletic training. He's been able to work alongside the trainers at University of Nebraska sports events and this semester he's working in injury prevention care through Campus Recreation.
Cody is very interested in University of Nebraska sports, especially the football team and program.
Cody reads about NU sports in the newspaper and on the Internet. He also reads Huskers Illustrated, plus in addition to his contact with Ryan, Cody has friends and some family members also interested and knowledgeable about the programs.
"If something is going on with sports at UNL, Cody knows about it," Ryan said with a smile. "He keeps tabs on the NU football team."
Cody said he wears Nebraska clothes every day and hopes to play football when he goes to high school. He's enjoyed playing club football and was the quarterback on his team.
Cody likes to hear about Ryan's student experiences and Ryan has taught him the rules of basketball and how to shoot baskets.
Both view sports as providing life lessons. Athletics is a perfect representation of how life works, Ryan said. In sports you have highs and lows and it's how you respond between the two that makes the difference. Life is the same way.
Ryan knew he wanted become a part of the Lincoln TeamMates mentoring program after visiting the TeamMates information booth during the Big Red Welcome week when he first came to the University.
"I had an awesome childhood. I wanted to share that with someone else and make a difference in their lives," Ryan said.
Now that Trevin is in 6th grade they've had lots of time to get to know each other. They both like sports, computer games and playing practical jokes.
If the weather cooperates, they like to go outside and play basketball. Indoors, they play computer games and they often play a favorite math game that features a ball and chain. "It's a game that makes you think," Jim said, "because you need to guess where the ball is going to land."
Another favorite interest is Trevin's drawing talent. "You should see Trevin draw!" Jim has had Trevin's artwork laminated and he gives it to Trevin to keep in a binder that is special for his drawings.
They've also spent time setting goals. Trevin's favorite class right now is science. Jim was happy to hear this because science class was a focus of Trevin's goals. Trevin said that he's noticed that he's improved in several classes by remembering the goals that he and Jim set together.
Trevin's favorite part of having a TeamMate? "I just like hanging out with him. He's fun to hang out with."
They've had lots of opportunities to learn from each other
"I just like coming to spend time with Trevin. He's fun to be around. He keeps me young and I'm getting better at computer games." Jim said.
Cody, who is in 9th grade at North Star High School, said he had wanted a mentor for about two years or since he was in middle school at Dawes/Goodrich at Dawes.
Even though Cody is new into the program he said his favorite part is that "TeamMates has good mentors. If something's wrong, they can help you."
Gus has been a mentor since 1997 and Cody is his fifth Teammate. One of his former mentees, Phuong, graduated from North Star High School.
Gus and Cody have already learned that they have common interests. For one thing, they both like to read mysteries by author Janet Evanovich. These books are mysteries with a comical side. They find them interesting and enjoy the humor.
Gus wants to visit one of Cody's favorite school classes, International Woods. Cody likes the class because he gets to build things. When we met, he had just finished a wood compact disc holder. The final coat of polyurethane was going on the piece during the next class. Gus shared that Cody is good at and enjoys working with his hands. Cody nodded in appreciation of the compliment and said he is interested in someday becoming a car mechanic.
As Gus and Cody plan their future TeamMates weekly hour, they aren't sure what types of activities they will work on together. "Cody and I are just starting on our journey together. We need to spend some time to get to know each other," Gus said. "We're truly excited that we are matched up together. Cody is a special young man with lots of potential. I see some really great things down the road."
David and Mike have established the kind of relationship in which David feels he can talk to Mike about anything. Mike's help with homework has also been a key.
In previous years they've worked on history, reading, math and Spanish. This year they've mostly spent time on literature and history.
"I've come a long way," David said. Mike helped him realize how important it is to focus on homework. "He helped me become more outgoing and to be more confident."
With pride in his voice, Mike added, "He has mostly As and Bs across the board."
The two have sports in common as well.
David appreciates that Mike comes to his swimming, diving and track meets -- and the connection between academics and sports.
"Sports keep you on track. It is a privilege to play, so you have to keep your grades up. Academics come before sports."
They are both looking forward to attending the TeamMates Recognition Event in January. TeamMates mentors who have served three years or more are eligible for Mentor Hall of Fame Award and school facilitators, community partners and scholarship winners receive special recognition. Mike and David have attended together in previous years and David said he's enjoyed hearing the speakers.
College is definitely the next step. David wants to combine his special interests and hopes to pursue a career that includes public speaking, perhaps counseling and working with youth, possibly as a youth pastor.
They are also planning for the A.C.T. David told Mike that he'd just purchased a test prep book. As David outlined his plans to prepare for the test, Mike smiled and nodded. They will work on it together.
They share and discuss goals. "Sometimes (they make) grade predictions which are fun," said Prudence.
Every year they take time to write about their reflections and share their thoughts with each other.
Along with journaling, the pair took on another writing project that was very important to Breanna. They incorporated the need to learn the skill to write a persuasive letter and a situation of importance to Breanna. Breanna wanted help her younger sister get a TeamMate mentor at Arnold Elementary.
Breanna came up with the ideas, Prudence helped her outline the ideas in the correct order and then Breanna wrote the letter on the computer.
"I think it helped," Breanna said.
"It had to have helped. It showed you cared." (Her sister did get a TeamMate.)
They have worked together on other service projects. They participated in the elementary school project Blankets for Troops and this past May, they hand-made flowers for retirement homes and wrote cheerful, encouraging notes that were then delivered to retirement communities.
This is the 5th year of their match. They started meeting when Breanna was in 4th grade. Breanna appreciates the mentoring program and would recommend it to other students. She would ask them, "do you need help with homework? Do you have family issues? If they say yes, then that's your answer."
They have a tradition of having Subway sandwiches at the end of the school year during their last in-school visit. They keep in contact over the summer and make arrangements to meet for two or three times outside of school. For these summer visits they also have two traditions. One outing is to a museum, this past summer they visited the Quilt Museum. They always go for a swim at the Arnold Pool.
Through mentoring, what has Breanna learned? "To always respect people for who they are."
For Prudence, she has enjoyed watching Breanna's growth and changes.
Breanna is an A student in math. Prudence, a retired LPS teacher, said the Social Studies curriculum at LPS is very difficult and "this one has managed to ace it!"
Breanna is in 8th grade and plans to go to North Star next year and she's looking forward to taking French. Her long-term goals include serving in the military and becoming a teacher.
"Behavior is not even an issue," Prudence said. "Once we got together, I realized, this child is bright, she can go and she can do things, and she did!
"She is a wonderful role model for her younger sister."
When they meet, they usually play games. One of their favorite pastimes is building futuristic robots out of Bionicles.
The activities change with the days. Sometimes they talk about world issues. "Sometimes we draw on the marker board," Travon said. They went to the movie, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" and found it "hilarious."
"Sometimes it's a color day and we do that," Jayme says, "we do whatever feels right for the day."
The match started when Travon was in 3rd grade and he's now in 5th grade. The idea for a getting Travon a mentor came from his school counselor, Mrs. McIntyre. "She asked me if I'd like a mentor. I filled out some forms. My mom filled out forms."
Travon was new to the school at the time, said Arnold Elementary School Counselor Barb McIntyre. The match seems to have had a positive impact, plus she said, "I love seeing them together because they both light up when they see each other each week."
Travon has learned that school can be a place where he has some fun and some good times and study.
"I always wanted to do this," said Jayme. "I learn all kinds of things from this guy. He's kind of my mentor." He praised his employer for giving him the time from work to be a mentor.
Jayme works at Acton Marketing. They are scheduled to meet around the lunch hour on Wednesdays. Sometimes his work takes him out of town and he has to switch days. Jayme appreciates Travon's flexibility about the changes. "Travon is pretty understanding" even though some of the changes happen at the last minute. They usually still meet sometime during each week.
When they learned about being TeamMates of the Month, Travon was really excited for the recognition of a great relationship.
"It is good to know that there are kids like Travon," Jayme said. He's watched Travon interact with the other students. "He's good to everybody and is a good person. Good people don't always get recognized for being good."
"Yes, he seems very impressed by that," Kyle says.
It's because Kyle works at Westgate Bank that he is a TeamMate. "The bank encourages its employees to be involved in the community. Mark Hansen, my boss, suggested TeamMates."
Because Kyle had been interested in TeamMates, he looked into the opportunity. That was more than five years ago. He and Logan have been meeting just about every week for those five years. It's easy to see the respect the two TeamMates have for each other.
They play a variety of games, put together models, and touch on schoolwork. "Mostly we have fun and hang out," Kyle says. "For the little amount of time we spend together, I'm surprised at the impact on him."
Logan, a middle school student, says he looks forward to the day he too can be a mentor. When asked what it takes to be a good mentor, Logan answered: "You need to get along with kids."
Janice discovered TeamMates in approximately 2004. She was a Book Buddy for Shawna for two years at McPhee Elementary. When Shawna moved into 4th grade, Shawna's teacher recommended she have a mentor. "It was a natural that I became her mentor," Janice said. She has been Shawna's mentor since.
Shawna will be going into 8th grade and will be attending Goodrich Middle School at Dawes.
When she and Janice spend their one hour a week, they sometimes play computer games or complete crafts, Shawna said, such as friendship bracelets or crocheting.
Was the crocheting a skill that Shawna learned from Janice? Actually, she had helped Janice relearn.
Janice comes to school once a week and then she usually sets the time for their next week's visit at that time, so Shawna knows from week to week when they will meet.
Mentoring has helped Shawna overcome shyness. When asked what her favorite part of having a mentor is, Shawna said she likes getting away from class for a while. At first, she needed help her with homework. Now she's getting good grades and getting her schoolwork done, so they get to do crafts.
She doesn't need the scholastic piece, Janice said. She already does an excellent job with her school work. Janice believes she best helps Shawna by being there and listening to what is going on in her life. Janice thinks it's important for Shawna to know that someone is going to be there consistently and that she has someone to listen and be there for her. "She can be who she is around me."
As far as planning activities, Janice knows the activities Shawna likes to do. Sometimes they play games and complete crafts. Sometimes Shawna teaches Janice new crafts. Sometimes they take a walk outside around the grounds of school.
In order to stay in contact over the summer, the two have been emailing each other.
Larry and Harry have been Teammates since Harry was in the fourth grade and their bond is one of friendship and respect for each other.
"I've watched him develop as a young man," Larry says of Harry. "I've never known anyone with a heart as pure as his."
Every Friday for the past five years, Larry and Harry have met for lunch. Those times have been life-changing for both of them.
"He came along when I had no friends and showed me how to make friends," Harry said. "He has taught me life skills."
Larry, who owns a business and is a United Methodist pastor, struggles to express what he has experienced. "I can't put into words what happens and what it means to watch growth in a young person."
Being a TeamMate is not a new experience for Larry. Tom Osborne recruited Larry early in the program's beginning. In 1992, Tom gave Larry the instruction to kick off TeamMates at the Nebraska State Education Association in Kearney, which he did. And now, Harry is Larry's third mentee.
"TeamMates is a sure way to give back to the community," Larry says. "So often people lament, ‘What can I do as an individual? I'm just one person.' You can coach a young person and make a big difference in their -- and your -- life, that's what."
"It doesn't take a lot to be a mentor," according to Harry. "Just show up and listen."
He would know. Every Friday for an hour Larry shows up and listens, and he and Harry go through life together.
Harry sums it up this way: "Without my TeamMate, I would be nothing like I am today."
Grace Kluck was a sixth grader when she suffered a concussion, a serious injury that took her out of school for several weeks. As a middle school student, she found it extremely difficult to return to school, her friends and the way life had been before the accident.
And then Lauren and Grace met. Lauren was a freshman in college volunteering at a middle school as part of a field assignment when she met sixth grader Grace, who had become shy and withdrawn after the head trauma and separation from school and friends.
"We clicked from the beginning," Lauren said. Lauren remembered how hard it had been to come back after a long break from friends and social circles. She knew Grace must be going through the same thing. That was the connection and the foundation of a mentoring relationship.
They became TeamMates when Grace was in the seventh grade. As the two spent their one hour a week talking about life issues, Grace grew in confidence and spirit. In high school she won competitions in speech and theater and vocal music.
Grace explains it this way: "Lauren taught me to be confident in who I was and to break out of my shell so that by the time high school rolled around I was a bold confident girl who loved the performing arts."
And now, after six years with Lauren as her TeamMate, Grace is getting ready for college. She graduates this year from North Star and plans to go to University of Nebraska-Lincoln to study broadcasting with a minor in vocal music.
"It's just so amazing," Lauren said as she reflects on Grace when they first met and who she is today. "I'm so proud of her and all she's accomplished!"