Head Coach Tom Osborne and his wife, Nancy, envisioned a means to promote encouragement and provide support for the youth. Their idea became a reality in 1991 after they started the TeamMates Mentoring Program. The couple's idea bloomed into a program that mentors over 7,500 youth in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Wyoming.
Two years ago, local community parents felt so strongly about the program that a local chapter was setup. With approval of the Bloomfield School Board, the local chapter board was officially elected under the current board of Travis Mlady, Jason Hefner, Amy Eisenhauer, Shane Alexander, Jerry Nipp, Pastor Bobby and Lyndsey Jenness.
The program could not operate without the support of the community school. The school board has opened their doors and let TeamMates make excellent use of their facility and equipment. The school sees the benefits of when the students utilize the mentor program with how their grades shoot up and with their attendance.
“Tabitha (Gilsdorf) and I are program coordinators which means we basically organize everything”, one of the program coordinators, Terri Mlady stated. Currently, TeamMates is open to third through seventh grade students.
“We started with sixth because we didn’t want to overwhelm ourselves. It can go all the way through high school and into college.”, Mlady says. Their goal was to have 50 mentor/mentee pairings in the first year. The goal had been met and the program hadn’t lost any mentees from the year before. To expand on their goal, she added that wanted to get 10 additional pairings this school year.
“It is about mentoring. It’s about pairing an adult with a child and one on one mentoring.”, says Terri Mlady, “The program is designed to provide a safe environment where the pair can spend quality time together.”
“We really focus on strength building so anytime you can do a project with them.”, it is encouraged she explains. “We let the mentees choose what they want to do”. As far as what the pairs partake in each week, the mentee is the one in control. “We have board games. They go shoot hoops. Go in the gyms," she goes on.
The child has the freedom to build the relationship through the program. The mentor provides the support and helps the child discover themselves. “It’s all about empowering you (the mentor) and focusing on their strengths. You are not the authoritarian.”, Mlady clarifies as the mentors are there as a friend. “I think the adults find it just as rewarding and fulfilling. It actually improved the relationship with my own children. We put the phone away and focus with the kids. You would be amazed at the conversations you have.”, Terri has learned.
This year, Kayla Eisenhauer volunteers as a mentor for TeamMates. She can also testify that the program affects more than the children. “I notice I changed as a mom. They see that you are spending time with them so that means more to them.”, she details, “So when I am with my children, I want to make it useful. It changed my perspective on time.”
Eisenhauer supports the program and really likes what it stands for. “I enjoy being around youth and being an influence on them. Hopefully they see that someone really cares about them.” One of the difficulties Bloomfield Teammates faces is finding enough mentors. “We need male adults. We have 4 boys waiting.”, Mlady pleads. She says some of the older males have been joining which is great. “I like that scenario because they have such a different perspective.”, she says.
For those interested in joining TeamMates as a mentor, they will need to fill out an application and attend an hour or two of training. Additionally, a background check must be completed by TeamMates to ensure the applicant satisfies their requirements.
Other than the process to join, “All it takes is an hour of their time. A lot of people eat lunch or breakfast with them. It takes time but that is your gift to them. You don’t give money. It’s just time.” The program runs throughout the school year with summers off.
This past Friday, the Bloomfield Community Club hosted a cornhole tournament with all proceeds going to TeamMates to help support the program. “It was a fundraiser to get together and have a good time.”, Mlady explains. This was their second year holding the tournament.
The following day, the kids participated in their own fun tournament that was held at the Bloomfield High School. While it was not a part of TeamMates, the organizers use the time to promote the program. “Today is just about promoting Teammates to the kids, doing something for the kids and getting them in here.”, says Mlady, “They actually request it and love these tournaments.”. The turnout this year was higher than expected so the tournament had to be moved from the Elementary school to the high school because they did not have enough room.