Local TeamMates group seeks more mentors

TeamMates central staff member Anna Flores, right, discusses the program with Janis Connealy, left and local co-coordinator Molly Miller following last week’s luncheon.

It wasn’t money they sought, it was support.

A Thursday luncheon for area business owners put on by Tekamah-Herman’s TeamMates chapter was designed to seek support for the program.

Among the ways suggested by training and match support specialist Anna Flores is simply to provide employees the opportunity to mentor.

The organization’s goal is to goal is for mentees to develop safe, positive relationships with their mentors and for those matches to last through high school graduation

The group does not assign a man to mentor a girl or a woman to mentor a boy. Additionally, the program is based through the school so meetings between mentors and their mentees take place at the school. Although that means the meetings take place during work hours, local program co-coordinator Jodi Hansen said scheduling is flexible enough to make it work for everyone involved. For example, she said the of the eight mentor-mentee relationships currently in place, most meet in either at noon or in the afternoon, but one meets early in the morning.

Flores, who herself is a TeamMates graduate, said the organization seeks a three-year commitment from its mentors and has a wide array of support services available to help them.

She said mentors aren’t expected help “fix” kids, rather they are there to listen and provide support.

“The most impactful moments for me growing up were just walking and talking with my mentor,” with whom she said she still is friends today. “I hope every child can have the same opportunity I did.”

Flores said the organization does not believe in the term “at-risk,” when describing children.

Everyone needs an additional positive adult in their life,” she said.

Hansen, who is the elementary school counselor at Tekamah-Herman, said that was especially true for what might be described as ‘regular’ kids, children who are well-mannered and get good grades but don’t get as much attention because they don’t draw much attention to themselves.

Children are either self-nominated into the program, nominated by a teacher or staff member at the school or by their families.

They are then matched with a mentor who has similar interests, thereby providing the budding relationship with common ground. Flores said mentors and their mentees do not interact with each other on social media, nor do they exchange phone numbers. “They are face-to-face friends,” that normally meet once a week for less than an hour.

Mentors are asked to have at least 24 meetings with their mentee during the 36-week school year. No meetings are held over the summer.

The local TeamMates group hopes to launch its second round of mentorships in January, but mentors are needed to make it work.

A training session for new mentors is set for Dec. 11, 7 p.m. at the high school. More information about being a mentor will be presented.

The TeamMates organization, started by Tom and Nancy Osborn in 1991, believes that mentors come from all walks of life—from young adults to retired professionals. The common thread, they say, is a genuine desire to positively influence young people.

Students who interact with a TeamMates mentor report greater engagement at school, improved peer and parent relationships as well as resiliency to the pressures of drug and alcohol abuse. Not only does TeamMates increase students’ grades, attendance and behavior, most importantly it improves their sense of hope.

But the mentor benefits, too, Flores said. “Our surveys show mentors do better at work because they are more engaged.”

More information about becoming a TeamMates mentor is available from Hansen or Molly Miller at the school, 402-374-2154; or through the organization’s Web site: www.teammates.

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