By Carolyn Lee
The Imperial Republican
Transforming lives. That’s what TeamMates is all about.
Chase County Schools (CCS) will join the program this fall when 10 fifth grade students will receive mentoring from adult community members.
TeamMates’ mission is “to positively impact the world by inspiring youth to reach their full potential.”
The TeamMates program began in 1991 with the vision of University of Nebraska Head Football Coach Tom Osborne and his wife Nancy.
The program began with 22 football players who met with middle school students in the Lincoln Public Schools.
TeamMates has expanded and currently there are more than 6,000 youths in 115 communities across Nebraska, Iowa and California.
Bringing the mentoring program to CCS was the idea of guidance counselors Trent Herbert and Shannon Waggoner.
During the past few years they and members of Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) had tried mentoring students. But Herbert said the FBLA students were so busy with other commitments that scheduling time was a problem.
That’s when they decided to turn to TeamMates. The organization has guidelines for mentors and those they mentor. Mentoring takes one hour a week and is only during school hours or at school events.
A mentor should let the “mentee” take a lead in deciding what to do during the time together. That may be playing a board game, do a craft, play on a computer, read, talk about the week, do homework or go to the school gym.
CCS sent letters to families of students in the fifth grade asking if they wanted to participate, Herbert said, and as of this week seven students had applied.
Herbert is in the process of setting up a “pool” of mentors, and has approached the Imperial Rotary Club and Imperial Chamber of Commerce.
He hopes to have a pool of 10 mentors set up by the beginning of the 2014-15 school year. “We can add more mentors during the year,” he noted.
There is an application process for a mentor, and a background check is required, Herbert pointed out.
Pairing of a student and a mentor may not happen right away, he said, because there is some training required.
“I feel there’s a need for mentoring,” Herbert said. The mentor follows the student throughout his or her schooling at CCS. “It’s extra support for kids,” he added.
The Hershey Schools have used TeamMates for five or six years. Superintendent Jane Davis said, “I feel it’s been a great success.”
Last school year there were 107 students in grades 3-12 in the program. “Each year we try to build more” into the program, she said.
A TeamMates coordinator at the school does a “personality inventory” of each student, as well as each mentor, and matches them according to interests.
TeamMates has a formula to measure the success of the program which includes discipline referrals, grades and more.
TeamMates also offers ongoing training opportunities and an entire resource library dedicated to making the mentoring program a success.
“I personally feel the biggest success is getting the community involved,” Davis commented. “The student gets an adult mentor to share with and to build a relationship with.”
Herbert, Waggoner and CCS Secondary Principal Mike Sorensen will attend a TeamMates training the end of July.
They are part of a TeamMates board at CCS that also includes school board member Sheila Stromberger, City of Imperial Community Development Director Jason Tuller and two community members, to be determined.
There is no cost for the program, Herbert said, but in the future an account may be set up to fund parties or programs. Each school or community handles funding differently, he said.