TORRINGTON – Goshen County School District No. 1 is the first school district in Wyoming to implement the TeamMates mentoring program, which was established by former University of Nebraska football coach Dr. Tom Osborne.
Osborne, while a coach for the Cornhuskers, started a program that now crosses into four different states by sending some of his players out to mentor local youth. The first mentoring under Osborne came 25 years ago, and now the program helps more than 8,000 students across more than 150 school districts. Nebraska, Iowa and now Kansas and Wyoming have schools that have put the TeamMates mentoring program into action.
“Obviously, when we sent those 22 football players to mentor seventh- and eighth-grade boys in Lincoln, we had no idea that it would even go beyond Lincoln,” Osborne said. “I think the reason it has grown is that it does work. People understand and sense that it works and makes a difference.”
TeamMates is a school based program, with all of the mentor/mentee interaction occurring on school grounds. The pair meets for one hour each week to check in and build
According to Osborne, research has been done into TeamMates and the results have been proven. He said during his presentation that he gave at Torrington High School on Tuesday that the research showed attendance improved, behavior improved and the mentees were more hopeful and optimistic about the future.
The mentors in the program go through training before they are matched with a student. Osborne said mentors love and accept their mentee unconditionally, provide affirmation and provide a vision of something that is possible. He also said that the greatest thing that a person can give is their time, which is one of the main points of TeamMates.
“It’s just building a relationship and letting the mentee take the lead,” Osborne said. “Over time, there is a dimension of trust that develops there… (The mentor) is here to serve me and they want me to be all that I can be and there will be a lot of teachable moments.”
Another pillar of the program is to have the mentees work on building on their strengths.
“Usually people who say their job is such that they never really worked a day in their life, those are the people who built on their strengths and they’re doing something that they’re born to do,” Osborne said. “When we deal with strengths, it’s a very powerful lesson for young people.”
GCSD No. 1 currently has eight mentor/mentee matches, with the goal of many more. The eight pairings that already exist started in early spring and continued into the current school year. Osborne said his initial goal for the district at 25-30 pairings.
“Grades 6-10 has kind of been our focus for the last year but I think we really want to target, not that we won’t take anyone else from those upper grades, but we really want to start at the sixth-grade level,” GCSD No. 1 Superintendent Jean Chrostoski, who is a mentor herself, said. “As Dr. Osborne indicated, you want to have a three-year commitment to make a difference and the sixth-grade seems like a good time to do that.”
GCSD No. 1 is currently looking for both mentors and mentees. Anyone over the age of 18 can apply to be a mentor. As far as mentees, the program is not for at-risk youth, but any student who feels they would benefit from having a mentor.
“I think it can make a difference, not only for the student but for the adult as well,” Chrostoski said. “It’s just relationship building, having someone that is not related to you that you have an interest in and you have similar interests. You just visit, it’s a conversation… it’s kind of nice to have someone who wants to visit with you.”
For more information on TeamMates, check out teammates.org. To get involved with the local TeamMates program, check out the TeamMates page on the school district website under the parents tab or contact Rocio Ruiz, the District Parent Coordinator/Student Advocate and Mentoring Coordinator at 532-2171.