TeamMates of Grand Island is a school-based mentoring program that matches a positive, safe adult from the community with a middle or high school student in order to help the student reach their full potential in school and life. Mentoring works through consistent, caring, one-to-one relationship building, where mentor and mentee can be open and honest with each other, and talk about many life situations that otherwise may not be addressed. Mentors provide meaningful life lessons and guide students in the journey through their teen years, not in a prescriptive way but in a relational way. Grades are not a focus but, through positive encouragement, school connectivity is improved.
A mentee could be any student in grades 6 through 12 who works hard in school but may have challenges at home; who has a great deal of potential but does not view school as a priority; who needs direction in social or academic situations. Mentors are not tutors, but trained volunteers who build trust with a student and help them see the good in themselves through attention and support. Ninety-nine percent of mentees say they trust their mentor while eighty-nine percent say they feel more hopeful when leaving the mentoring period. In other words, support, encouragement, and consistency are key to a student’s success and mentors are there to provide these crucial elements.
With a district average match length of 28 months, much longer than the national average of nine months, TeamMates is time spent each week over several years building a strong foundation between mentor and mentee. Each week, they engage in board games, crafts, community service projects, acts of kindness, or other activities at school to help the student see what they do well and how to go from good to great. Other experiences include college visits, a career cruise, or collegiate sporting events. The scholarship opportunities with this program are exceptional, allowing students to plan for a future they may not have envisioned for themselves.
In one success story, 6th grader Alondra was matched with Dianne Schneider at Barr Middle School. Raised by a single mother, Alondra was told she would never receive the opportunity to attend college because she was not born in the United States. Instead, for seven years, Alondra’s mentor emphasized higher education was possible through hard work and good choices. They researched different colleges and fields of study, spent numerous hours filling out scholarship applications, and sought advice from school staff. The support, encouragement, and consistency Dianne provided were vital to Alondra’s success and determination. Alondra was awarded the coveted Osborne Legacy Scholarship through TeamMates for full tuition at Hastings College in addition to several other scholarships. Originally matched in 2009, Alondra is currently a junior at Hastings College working towards a degree in social services.