DEADWOOD — In its inaugural year, the TeamMates Mentoring Program of Lead-Deadwood is up and running and they’re looking for volunteers to team up with students.
Founded in 1991 by Dr. Tom and Nancy Osborne with 22 University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) football players serving as mentors, the TeamMates Mentoring Program is celebrating its 30th anniversary and is a school-based mentoring program, where the mentoring happens at the school, during the school day.
“TeamMates partners with school districts and communities to provide the support and encouragement of mentors to students,” said Lead-Deadwood Elementary School Counselor Amanda Bender, who coordinates the program for the school district. “Our goal is for mentees to develop safe, positive relationships with their mentors and for those matches to last through high school graduation.”
That said, the program’s greatest need right now is for adult mentors.
“TeamMates mentors have a significant impact on the youth they meet with each week,” Bender said. “Students generally see their absences and behavioral incidents decrease while seeing an improvement in their course performance. Data is reported by each school, ensuring that the measurement for each chapter is directly comparable to that of the student body as whole.
Historic data gathered during the school year demonstrates the benefits of the program to students: 85% of TeamMates mentees improved their attendance; 75% of TeamMates mentees had fewer behavioral incidents; 54% of TeamMates mentees saw an increase in their course performance.
Additionally, data gathered from TeamMates Mentors reveals: 89% of mentors report leaving their mentoring time in a better mood than when they arrived; 82% of mentors report feeling more hopeful about the future as a result of their mentee; 80% of mentors report going back to their workplace and home more engaged as a result of their mentoring time.
“The important thing to remember is that being a mentor doesn’t take anything special talent – just the ability to consistently meet with your mentee. The meetings are only 30 minutes once a week during the school year and mentors will be supported throughout the process,” Bender said.
Helping to kick the program off with recent visits to each of the three buildings in the district, TeamMates CEO DeMoine Adams, a former Husker and professional football player.
“Throughout that journey, not only did I learn what that means, what it takes to be a winner on the field, it helped me understand what it means to be a winner in life,” Adams said. “So even with the dream stopped lovin’ me, I was grateful to go pro in life and take on the work ethic, teamwork, discipline, everything that they taught to help me be successful.”
Adams is originally from Pine Bluff, Arkansas and was a three-year starting Blackshirt Defensive End for the Nebraska Cornhuskers who led the team in quarterback sacks during his time on the team. He played an instrumental role in helping the Huskers win a Big 12 conference championship in 1999 and helped lead the Huskers to the National Championship Rose Bowl in 2002. He was also a professional football athlete with five years of experience in the Canadian Football League, National Football League and American Football League.
As a first-generation student, Adams earned his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science in three years with minors in English, History, Communications, Ethnic Studies and African Studies and went on to receive his Master’s degree in Educational Psychology. He is currently pursuing his Doctorate degree at UNL and his research includes Leadership, Motivation, and Sociology.
Adams said he arrived in his current TeamMates position by a million-dollar question posed to him one day.
“If you could do anything in life and get paid for it, what would it be? And I said, ‘I wouldn’t mind being a motivational speaker, helping others to understand that life is just like a game. You win or lose by how you choose. That’s what I’m here in the Black Hills are this week, speaking to school districts, helping students to understand what it takes to be winners. They can all be winners, but every day, it’s about their education, it’s about the choices that they make and it’s about being resilient. And for the Golddiggers, I mean, the history here is simply about digging yourself up no matter what gets in your way. When the goin’ gets tough, that’s when you get tougher.”
TeamMates chapters are in five states, including South Dakota and the program’s founder, Dr. Tom Osborne felt that he knew what it took to help football players be successful.
“But there were so many youth that were failing, whether it was not reaching their full potential, dropping out of high school, making cool choices that were really poor choices,,” Adams said. “So he thought, what if he had some of his football players – 22 – work with these students one-to-one to be a role model.”
Out of the 22 students who had mentors, 21 of them graduated from high school and out of the 21, 18 went on to receive some sort of post-secondary education.
“That’s when it grew. That’s when it went from football players to community members. It went from Lincoln, Nebraska to now we’re in 183 school districts,” Adams said.
Why does Adams believe in the TeamMates program so much?
“Because I believe every student has potential,” he said. “But it takes teamwork. It takes people working together, coming together as a village to help students to reach their full potential. Parents can’t do it all by themselves. Teachers can’t do it all by themselves. So it’s a nice blend of teamwork that surrounds youth, giving them the confidence to hope, to believe that they can do it regardless of their background and even the students that may be the leaders, may be the popular ones, helping them to understand the importance of making positive choices, so that they don’t make a poor choice that leads to consequences. I believe that choices give you chances or give you consequences.”
Adams said in light of the fact that there are so many negative role models out there, he believes it’s extremely important for more youth to start in elementary – even through college – to have positive role models.
“They might think it’s social media that will make them successful, but it’s the face to face that prepares students for the real world, interpersonal communication, how to interact with someone, how to solve a problem. Those are all emotional intelligence pieces that we incorporate in our training for mentors,” he said. “So that they understand, we’re not asking you to be a tutor. We’re not asking you to replace someone’s mom or dad. We’re simply asking you to be there, to listen. Because one of the most important things you can give a young person is to make them feel heard.”
Adams said he truly believes that TeamMates is a platform to help the community and school district to work together as teammates.
“To be a TeamMate for a young person, to be that bridge. It is definitely a rewarding and meaningful experience for mentors, especially when they are in a position to feel like they are giving back,” Adams said. “Some people give with their talent or a treasure, some people give with their time.”
In closing, Adams said as fans, as cheerleaders, community members should never quit and give up on the home team.
“Regardless of their background, of the mistakes that they’ve made, as long as they don’t quit, they have a chance,” he said. “TeamMates is a program that will give every student a chance to be successful.”
Mentor trainings for TeamMates Mentoring Program of Lead-Deadwood will be held 12-3 p.m. Oct. 20 and 2-5 p.m. Oct. 21 at the Sanford Visitor Center in Lead. Those interested in mentoring can RSVP by calling Lead-Deadwood Elementary School at 717-3884 and sign up to attend a session.
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