USD 235 staff have been working on the details of a mentoring program for the district’s students since August 2019.
On January 15, the school district will implement the program with training for mentors.
Mentors and mentees will meet during the student’s lunch period to eat and talk. There is a conference room available should the mentors/mentees want a little quieter space to talk.
Permission slips will be sent home with students for parents to agree to their child having a mentor.
“Once the forms come back signed, we will begin to match mentors with mentees, and the program will officially be up and running,” Meaghan Russell, one of the TeamMates USD 235 facilitators, said.
“We work with Michael McCambridge out of Greenbush (Education Service Center),” she said.
“We also have an advisory committee consisting of… Mike Reith (JH/HS principal), Vance Eden (elementary principal), Bret Howard (superintendent), Jeanne Camac (JH/, HS counselor), Marty DeWitt (Uniontown Baptist Church pastor), Chad Holt (banker), Sally Johnson (city clerk), Jeff Feagins (HS business teacher and pastor of Marmaton Church),” Russell said.
“The TeamMates Coordinators are out of Nebraska, and they will be here on January 15th to conduct the training,” she said.
The following is an interview with Russell:
What is the purpose of the program?
“The purpose of the program is to build interpersonal skills in our students by having them talk with an adult from the community at lunch once a week. This should not only help to build their communication skills, but also their confidence in talking with adults and having to get to know someone new.”
If one becomes a mentor, what are the expectations?
“Mentors must be 18 years of age, willing to provide three references, able to pass a background check, and willing to attend a one-time, two-hour training. After that, it just comes down to making the commitment to come and eat lunch with a student once a week. We are very much in need of mentors, so if you are someone that has a flexible lunchtime, and you could sit with a student for twenty to thirty minutes once a week, we would love to have you participate! Our students can easily keep you entertained as they are full of stories!”
Who is paying for the program?
“This year, the school has paid the initial fees to get this program started. That money covers the cost of the background checks, training, and all communication and support provided by the TeamMates coordinators and Greenbush.”
Initially, Third Through Fifth Grade
“The TeamMates program recommends third through twelfth grade have mentors and trying to get as many students matched as possible. This program is not intended for a certain demographic of students. Initially, the plan is to begin with third through fifth-grade students, but then add grades as the program grows and expands. Mentors will be matched with the same gender of students, and the matching will be based on interests and hobbies as much as possible. One of the aspects that makes this program special is that all communication between the student and the mentor is to be done through the school.”
Why start a mentoring program?
“When students leave our district, we want them to be as prepared as possible for what lies ahead for them. We may not know what they are going to face, but we do know that relationship will be a part of it. Any skills that they learn from talking with adults will definitely be beneficial to them in the long run. Also, from a social/emotional perspective, we want to ensure that all students have connections to people. Life has ups and downs, and it is nice to have a slightly larger circle of people to help listen to you in good times and in bad. The benefit of going through the TeamMates organization to start this program is that they have already completed the research to successfully implement this in different schools, and they are a great support system to help launch this here at USD 235.”
TeamMates Mentoring Program began in 1991 with the vision of the University of Nebraska Head Football Coach Tom Osborne and his wife Nancy. 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. 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.
The program has changed quite a bit since then. Now thousands of boys and girls across the Midwest are served, and mentors come from all walks of life. One thing, however, remains the same-mentors just have to be there. It’s that simple.