For one TeamMates pairing, the benifits are mutual. Jackie Freeman and her youth mentee have found that their weekly meetings are doing more they both had expected.
The TeamMates program was launched in 1991 by Cornhusker legend, Tom Osborne and his wife. The program was designed to provide support for the youth and to promote encouragement. The idea is that an adult in the community will meet once a week with a child in a safe environment within the school facilities. It is a way to place a positive adult within the child's realm, giving them someone they can trust.
The program was first announced at Bloomfield school's open house in 2016 where initial enrollments began. During registration each year, the mentees are required to fill out an enrollement form to participate in TeamMates. The youth wrote down that she would like to work on her confidence.
This is where it began for Freeman and her partner. Freeman began spending their weekly, hour long one-on-one sessions with the youth. It is left up to the mentee as to what the pair would be taking part in for that session.
"I love to decorate the teammates rooms", said her mentee. Freeman repied, "She is very hands on and engineer orientated". She continued, "That is not the way I think, it makes me think differently too". She has learned what her mentee enjoys doing and helps her working on those skills.
In addition to arts and crafts, they enjoy spending their time playing board games. "I like master mind and 'Are you smarter than a fifth grader'", the youth said. Her favorite game is 'the Game of Life'. "We have played that many times", stated Freeman.
Her partner went out for 'Girls On the Run' last year which she said wasnt her faovirte thing to do, but she knew how much Freeman loves running. She was willing to give it a try. The program is about building trust and being there to support the kids, which is part of the reason her partner thought she would give it a try.
It is noticeable that the youth treasures the time that she gets to spend with Freeman. "Being able to come meet Jackie every week. It highlights my day and I am not so stressed at school", declared the youth. Her favorite part about having Freeman as her mentor is that "she is creative and that she likes to go outside and play".
Freeman thinks highly of the TeamMates program and how it helps bring the community together. "I love to see how members of the community have stepped up and volunteered their time to the youth in the school", she said. It is important for kids to have that adult, "not every student has adult contact that will help them talk about the problems that they are having or help them work through things", she continued.
Not only has this helped the kids, but Freeman feels it has helped her out as well. She said that there are days that the last thing I want to do is leave her house, but she knows that she is able to meet with her mentee and how excited she is for her to come. "It helps give me that positive attitude. It helps make the day better", Freeman said.
Freeman says that it has helped her with her own children as well. She does not get the opportunity to have the one-on-one time with them like she does with her mentee. After realizing how that can affect a child, "I am more willing to put things down around my kids and just focus on them", she explained.
It appears as if the program has done good for everyone that has been involved. The youth's mother, said "I think being in teammates has helped her (her daughter) confidence and herself which is the reason that she wanted to do it".
Once the mentee/mentor pairings have been established, they are set for the duration of their association with the program. Currently the program accepts enrollments of kids from the third to seventh grade.
That being said, kids that are enrolled during this period, can continue through high school graduation with the same mentor. This is will provide a positive experience for the kids as they transition from sixth to seventh grade. As they change school houses, they still will have that familiar face in the mentor.
Freeman and her mentee look forward to continuing their relationship in the future years and have no intentions of stepping out of the program.
If you are interested in being a mentor with the Bloomfield TeamMates chapter, please contact Tabitha Gilsdorf or Terri Mlady at the schools on how you can be a part of the program. Additional information on the TeamMates Mentoring program can be found at teammates.org.