DEADWOOD — This week, nearly a dozen kids will add vetted adult volunteers to their social network, as TeamMates kicks off in the Lead-Deadwood School District, fielding its first mentor/mentee partnerships.
One of the first TeamMates matchups, Lead-Deadwood fifth-grade student Summer Peil and Teen Court Administrator Lexi Lux played Battleship at the elementary school during their first meeting Tuesday.
Peil said she is hoping for guidance in navigating the world of social skills, as she and Lux meet weekly for their 30-minute sessions at the school.
“I think it’s going to help me, like, experience new people,” Peil said. “It’s going to be fun.”
Lux said she signed up to be a TeamMates volunteer because the goals of the program mirror her own personal goals.
“I think it’s important for kids to have positive role models and to have trusted adults that they can talk to,” Lux said. “It’s incredibly important for youth to have those relationships with people that they feel that they can trust. The more people you can add to your circle, the better. As a kid who would’ve very much benefited from this program, I can see where it can have a very positive impact today’s youth.
TeamMates Advisory Board Chairman Dan Leikvold said program implementation began in the district a couple of years ago.
“We were excited about it then and we were moving forward and the whole COVID thing happened, so we put it on hold,” Leikvold said. “We hoped that the COVID thing would be behind us, so we decided to move forward and, lo and behold, these are the cards we’ve been dealt, so here we are. And we are now ready to start and launch.”
Founded in 1991 by Tom and Nancy Osborne with 22 University of Nebraska-Lincoln football players serving as mentors, the TeamMates Mentoring Program recently celebrated its 30th anniversary and is a school-based mentoring program, where the mentoring happens at the school, during the school day.
“It was basically set up with the purpose of making sure of another way to connect young people with another trusted, caring adult in their lives and it blossomed and it grew and over the last 30 years, they’ve assembled a lot of data, and I think they’ve got a really good formula for success,” Leikvold said. “And the data that they look at every day indicates that teens that are in the TeamMates mentorship program have better grades, on average, have fewer discipline issues on average, and improve their attendance, on average. Obviously, those are three things that a school district continually looks at to try to address, in some sort of a formal fashion, and we think that this program will help our students be more successful in the Lead-Deadwood School District.”
TeamMates is a one-to-one mentoring program, where one student is assigned one caring, trusting adult.
“We don’t need adults to be experts at anything,” Leikvold said. “Basically, they just need to be there. They need to honor their time commitment and they need to meet with the students once a week for 30 minutes throughout the school year. It is all at school, so that takes a lot of the concerns about off-campus activity out of the way. All of our mentors have been trained in the TeamMates model. We’re anxious to get it started and get it moving.”
Leikvold said the district’s approach is to start the program slowly.
“So we get it right,” he said. “We know that we have a lot to learn, so we’re going to start small.”
TeamMates coordinator for the district, Amanda Bender said so far, there are 11 trained mentors and 10 students with parent permission to be part of the program.
“This week, the mentors and mentees are being contacted. Some could start as soon as this week or next week,” Bender said. “But everybody should be up and running by the end of January.”
Bender said the launch week has been such a long time coming.
“Because we started it just before COVID hit,” she said. “We didn’t really want to start it until we were at a place where we could have in-person matches. Because we felt that’s what our kids needed was that. We didn’t want to start with virtual meetings. So it’s really exciting to finally get to this point.”
Bender said as the program moves forward, the district would like to support as many matches as they can.
“As we move through this spring semester, there will be more opportunities for people who are interested in being mentors to be trained,” she said. “We’ll work on training individuals in the spring and maybe over the summer, so that in the fall, we can start off with more matches.”
Bender said the mission of TeamMates is to positively impact the world by inspiring youth to reach their full potential through mentoring.
“I think this is an awesome opportunity for all students in our district,” Bender said. “What I love about this program is that this program benefits all kids. This is something that can benefit every single student in our district who wants to be part of it.”
Helping to kick the program off with fall visits to each of the three buildings in the district, TeamMates CEO DeMoine Adams, a former Husker and professional football player shared why he believes 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.”
Leikvold said the goal at the end of year one is to have 30 mentor/mentee pairings.
“I think it’s a proven model that it works and I think the key is sustainability,” Leikvold said. “That’s why it’s important that we roll it out in a controlled, organized fashion. And I hope 30 years from now, it will still be in the Lead-Deadwood School District.”
The one-time initial start-up cost of the program was $15,000.
“$7,500 was covered by Monument Health and $7,500 was covered by the Lead-Deadwood School District,” Leikvold said.
Although there are not a lot of ongoing costs, some fundraising will be required to sustain the program.
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