Glenwood TeamMates Mentoring Program Continues To Grow In Third Year
Despite being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Glenwood Community School District’s nearly three-year-old TeamMates mentoring program is continuing to grow and serve children across the district.
Glenwood TeamMates coordinator Sandra Dollen said 50 students in grades 3-12 are currently matched with an adult mentor.
“The most important thing is not the number of mentor matches we have, but the quality,” Dollen said. “It’s very important to me that when I match a student with an adult that they have a good connection and they form a healthy relationship – a long lasting relationship as a friend.”
The mentors spend about 30 minutes a week with their mentee during normal school hours – conversing with one another and sometimes taking part in an activity.
Dollen said each participating school in the district has a designated mentoring room or space for mentors and their mentees to meet.
“They can play games. We have a nice ping-pong table, a little golfing turf area, they shoot hoops sometimes, play board games or just chit chat,” she said.
Dollen admits the start of the pandemic in 2020 created some challenges as the program was getting off the ground, but the mentoring continued, even after classrooms were shuttered and the district went into remote learning mode.
“For awhile there we had to go virtual but it was better than nothing at all,” Dollen said. “Then, there was a time when the school didn’t allow outsiders to come in so the mentors actually set up outside and they did social distancing and connected that way for the majority of the year. That worked out very well.”
TeamMates, founded in 1991 by former University of Nebraska football coach Dr. Tom Osborne and his wife Nancy, is a nationally-recognized “one-to-one, relationship-based” mentoring program. TeamMates programs exist in five states – Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Wyoming. The program has been established in 29 school districts across the state of Iowa, from as far west as Glenwood to Waterloo in the east and Storm Lake in the north.
TeamMates CEO DeMoine Adams, said the number of chapters continues to grow, particularly in southwest Iowa. Stanton is the latest Iowa school district to start a TeamMates program.
“Southwest Iowa is really where we’re going to blow up,” Adams said. “That’s where there is heavy interest.”
Adams, a former Nebraska and professional football player, spent the day in Glenwood on Friday meeting with mentors and students to promote the positive benefits of the program. Speaking to students during the lunch hour at the Glenwood Middle School, he stressed the importance of having positive adult role models in their lives.
“All of the teachers and the adults here will admit we had role models in our lives to help get to where we’re at. Because without having a positive role model, you may make the mistake of limiting your potential or wasting your potential,” Adams said. “All of you have potential, but it takes those positive, caring adults to help you see your potential and to reach it. In life, choices give you chances or consequences and you win or lose how you choose.”
Adams invited the students to join the team.
“TeamMates is a winning team and when students choose to be a part of TeamMates, it increases their chances of being a winner in the classroom by being a leader instead of a follower,” he said.
During an interview following his presentation at the middle school, Adams commended Dollen and the Glenwood mentors for the success of the program. He said the pandemic has been tough on children but mentors in Glenwood helped ease some of their anxiety.
“I’m very proud of our mentors for being there for our students in a time when anxiety, depression and mental health have been issues for our students,” he said. “A lot of our mentors stood up and stayed committed.”
Adams accompanied Glenwood TeamMates mentors and mentees to the Rams’ varsity boys basketball game Friday night against Denison. He addressed the crowd at halftime and encouraged adults in the audience to consider giving up 30 minutes of their time each week to make a positive impact on a child’s life.
Dollen said Friday night’s recognition at the basketball game was an opportunity to showcase TeamMates to the community and allow mentors and mentees to spend time with other program participants. Group activities take place at various times throughout the year, she noted.
“Last spring, it was a pizza party at the sports complex,” she said. “They were able to go out and play some football or soccer. We had board games in different places and places where everybody could talk with the kids. The kids loved that and it was just a simple thing – just having a human connection and having a place and space to relax and just be themselves. It was also a great networking for the mentors to get to know each other and pass ideas back and forth.”
In addition to group activities locally, TeamMates also sponsors regional outings for chapters in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa. Past events included spending a day at the Henry Doorly Zoo or attending a Creighton University basketball game.
Adults who are interested in becoming a TeamMates mentor can contact Dollen at 712-527-4887 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
TeamMates guidelines require mentors to receive mandatory training after passing a criminal background check. The mentors are then matched with a mentee of similar interests. TeamMates mentors are adult guides, advocates and trusted friends, but not allowed to tutor, give gifts or transport a student.