Teammates Mentoring program comes to Spearfish High School

SPEARFISH — At Spearfish High School, students can now get involved in Teammates Mentoring, a program to help and support students through mentoring and creating relationships and helping them reach their full potential. 

According to Matt Koehler, the facilitator of this program in Spearfish, Teammates is “a community-wide school based mentoring program. It’s for adult members of the community. They come to the school, meet with the students, grade 3-12, one-on-one, and just hang out and develop a good relationship.”

These meetings occur once a week for about a half hour at a time at the school during the school day. The mentoring goes past academic discussion. Mentees often discuss with mentors anything that is bothering them, while participating in a fun activity together.

“The purpose is to build hope, which goes along with building relationships. By showing up consistently, and we focus on what’s right about kids. They got enough people telling them what they need to do or what’s wrong. One of the things we really strive to do is focus on the good things. That builds hope,” Koehler said. 

The program has a multitude of effects, including better grades, attendance, behavior, and graduation rates. One of the main goals of Teammates, is that students graduate successfully from high school and move on to post-secondary education. 

Teammates is completely voluntary for both the mentors and the mentees. Students can be nominated by themselves, peers, parents, or teachers, but if there is not interest by the student, they don’t have to do it. 

Teammates is looking to build partnerships with anybody and everybody in the community. 

“We’re working with local businesses, banks, Black Hills State (University,)” Koehler said. “It’s for the kids, but I think the mentors get just as much out of it being involved with the school, making a difference. It’s really a community-wide effort,” said Koehler. 

Teammates also helps students get into college by offering scholarships and advice on how to get in to the college they want to get into, and how to pay for it. Through scholarships, nearly $4 million has been awarded to mentees. 

Teammates began in 1991 with 22 University of Nebraska-Lincoln football players and 22 Lincoln middle school students. In 1998, the program was formalized as a statewide program and is now spreading. Other states with the program include Iowa, Kansas, Wyoming, and now South Dakota. 

In more than 170 school districts and being spread across five states, Spearfish is the newest district to gain a chapter of the program. Other areas in the Black Hills are in the process of getting started. Custer and Rapid City currently have the Teammates Mentoring program. 

Those looking to get involved and support the nonprofit program can do so by becoming a mentor, making a donation, providing in-kind services, being a host site, or encouraging friends and colleagues to get involved. Each chapter is funded locally by donations and fundraisers. If someone is inclined to donate, call Steve Morford, Spearfish High School principal, at 717-1212. For more information, go to teammates.org.

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