LUSK – “This is not in a counseling role or a taxi. You are simply there to help kids see what is right with them. Showing kids what a safe, consistent, adult relationship should look like is so important.”
This statement was made during recent mentoring program training at Niobrara County High School. It is the core of what TEAMmates mentoring is all about.
TEAMmates is a one–to–one mentoring program that began in 1991, springing from the vision of retired University of Nebraska head football coach Tom Osborne and his wife Nancy. It began when Osborne felt there was more his players could be doing to impact their community in a positive way and has grown exponentially since. The program now looks very different, but its core remains the same – mentors just have to be there.
The training and programs are now available to thousands of boys and girls across the west and Midwest. Each mentoring relationship is unique, but mentors are required to spend one hour a week at the school with focus ranging from homework to sharing a hobby or just simple conversation. TEAMmates is locally funded by donations and fundraisers.
Volunteers who care about youth and are positive role models are encouraged to be mentors. Mentors must be at least 18 years old and have a high school degree or GED.
Niobrara County School District sponsored Osborne to give a presentation on mentoring in general and the TEAMmates program specifically. The district then made a commitment to open the local chapter by assembling a board to oversee the program and hosting a two-day training for approved volunteers and board members.
Volunteers had to fill out an application and submit character references and undergo a background check. If accepted to the program, volunteers are required to attend a minimum number of hours of training and commit to the program for a specific amount of time.
Trainings were held on Feb. 20 and 21. So far, the program in Niobrara county has 12 volunteers who participated in the initial training. The program target is to begin with sixth grade students and be up and running by May.
Interested community members may contact the district office to learn more about TEAMmates.