TeamMates celebrates 25 years

 

Dawn Fossand

In the foreground, Thomas, last name withheld, readies to throw another ball at the Kim Bowl during the TeamMates bowling party on Saturday, Aug. 27. To the far right, Terry Bourlier has just finished rolling his and eagerly awaits the result.

With the 25th Anniversary of the program nearing, the local TeamMates chapter hosted a bowling party to kick off the new year last Saturday, Aug. 27.

The group hopes to add 25 new mentors to the local chapter by the end of this school year to commemorate the anniversary, according to Stephanie Kitchens, who serves as the program coordinator, and the program is well on its way to realizing that goal.

Currently there are 26 active matches in the Kimball mentoring program and as the program coordinator, Kitchens is in charge of matching interested students with available mentors.

"We have five new mentors pending," stated Kitchens.

Not only does Kitchens participate in recruiting for the local program, but she helps with the activities that will be enjoyed by all of the participants during the year.

"Activities we have planned for this year," she said, "include pumpkin painting, a trip to watch Wyoming vs. South Dakota State basketball game, the Christmas Festival at the high school, a movie night, a trip to a dinner theater and a game night."

These are all in addition to the weekly meetings between mentor and mentee at the school, according to Kitchens.

"I feel this program is a great opportunity for all students in our Jr/Sr high school," Kitchens said, "I can think of multiple people who mentored me as I went through school and they helped shape me into the person I am today."

She added that all students can benefit from another caring adult in their lives and is looking forward, as are others, to trying some new activities during the program's year.

"I also want to get the program name out in the community more to get as many new mentors as possible," she said, "we are planning to set up some tables at some of the home games to generate some interest."

The mentoring program has been active in Kimball for twelve years, according to the local Board President, Terry Bourlier, who has been active for a little more than ten years, previously only on the board, but in the past four years as a mentor himself.

"It's a good program and it only takes a commitment of one hour a week, during the school year," shared Bourlier, "but, of course you can become more involved if you like and go to all the events."

Bourlier said that throughout the years, the local organization has remained around the 30+ member mark, although he would like to see that there enough mentors for each of the mentees in the program.

According to the TeamMates website, TeamMates Mentoring Program began in 1991 with the vision of University of Nebraska Head Football Coach Tom Osborne and his wife Nancy. Coach Osborne felt that the athletes in his program could make an impact on the middle school students, and twenty-two football players began meeting with middle school students in the Lincoln Public Schools.


The program boasted early success, as the website states that of the 22 original mentees, 21 went on to graduate from high school while one left school early to pursue a successful Motocross career. Eighteen of the original mentees also obtained some form of post-secondary education.

In 1998 the TeamMates Mentoring Program was formalized as a statewide program with 12 chapters and a total of 441 matches. The early success seen with the program has grown since its inception to include more than 135 chapters in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Wyoming, and serving more than 7,500 youth.

This past week, Program Coordinator, Kitchens, held classes for new potential mentors in the program. Some of the discussion during these meetings were to cover changes in the organization's policies for the mentor/mentee relationship, as well as changes in the over-all policies.

Kitchens informed the mentors that they would no longer be allowed to pick up the mentees from the school and transport in their vehicles to a location to meet for lunch.

This new policy did not consider the make-up of smaller communities, according to Kitchens, when the decision was handed out and she foresees that it will upset the larger majority of our local mentors.

"Now, the big push is to be school based," she said. "You can not drive your mentee and you can not transport your mentee. I'm thinking this (the new rule) will change over the years, when they understand small communities."

Another new change, meant to protect the identity of students, is that parents will be required to sign a form allowing participating students' pictures to be featured in the newspaper and that, even with the parent's consent, only first names will be allowed to be featured in stories or cutlines.

On a very positive note, as has been done in the past, each student involved in the program will automatically qualify for a two hundred dollar scholarship and will continue to receive this scholarship for each year they have participated. For example, if a student starts the program in the 7th grade and continues through his senior year, he or she will qualify for a scholarship of $1,200.

Being a mentor has it's rewards, but at the end of the day, it's about the mentees. Some of the statements made by a few of the mentees of the program in the past, and included on the organization's website http://www.teammates.org, are as follows;

"Thank you for being my mentor and having a lot of fun and I'm really happy for helping me with homework. And thank you for shooting baskets with me. Really, it seems you're my friend, and thank you."

"I appreciate you put in coming to meet with me. I've changed a little because of our meetings and its a good thing too. Thanks."

"Thank you for coming to see me each week! Its my favorite part of the week!"

"Thank you for being a teammate of mine. I enjoy spending my time every week to talk about how I am. You're like a pal to me."

 

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