Nola Derby-Bennett on 02/10/2015
When I first began to entertain the idea of becoming a Teammates Mentor last year, I knew one thing for sure- my time is limited. I felt very compelled to become a mentor, but I needed something that wasn’t going to add to my already full plate. As I began to look into the Teammates program, I was surprised how easy they make it. The application was easy to complete, the training was easy to work into my schedule, and very quickly I was paired with a 4th grader who attended Meadow Lane Elementary. Easy. I met with the young lady who I had been matched with and she was super sweet and very excited about meeting once a week with me. This thing was getting easier and easier. And that’s where the easy stopped.
As we began to meet and develop a relationship, my teammate, her name is Ashley, began to confide in me, to tell me about her life, her experiences, her reasons for preferring to visit her Dad at the old county jail versus the new one because at the old one you could meet face to face and at the new one you only see your loved one on a video screen. She told me about her experiences having her brother commit suicide and about the four different elementary schools she had attended before coming to Meadow Lane in 4th grade. Plus she beat me at UNO, a lot. All of the sudden, the easy was gone and this was becoming a very real responsibility. We continued to meet throughout the school year and as summer neared and I realized I wouldn’t see her all summer. I began to really worry about how her summer would go. I was so relieved when the school year started again in August and I met back up to with Ashley, and I saw how much she had grown and changed over the summer, but we fell right back into the same fun relationship where sometimes she would share things with me that I couldn’t believe I was hearing coming out of the mouth of a now 5th grader, but I was there to help her process through what was going on and hopefully give her at least one hour a week of undivided adult interaction.
Shortly into the school year Ashley let me know that she was going to be moving. Her family was looking at a house in the Hallam area and she was crying at our meeting, wanting to know if I would keep meeting with her if she moved to Hallam. She didn’t know what school she would be attending, so we started doing research in the media center during our meetings trying to make the transition as easy for her as possible, even though I wouldn’t be able to follow her to her new school. Then- good news- they were no longer moving to Hallam, but instead they were moving to Air Park. Well, this I can work with! So we scrapped our Hallam research, and began researching Arnold Elementary, looking at the 5th grade teacher’s websites, looking at the school calendar to discover that she wouldn’t miss the band performance that she had been working so hard to prepare for, and the best news of all was the fact that she was going to be staying in Lincoln- so I could stay her Teammate.
She moved to Arnold right before Thanksgiving and it was a couple of weeks before we could get our schedules to work out so I could get out to Air Park to start meeting with her again, but in the meantime I got four e-mails from the coordinator and her new teacher checking to be sure that I was going to stay meeting with her- she was a little worried.
In preparation for today’s Teammates Minute- I asked Ashley if she could tell me the best parts about being involved with Teammates from her perspective. As I watched her search for the words to describe how nice it is to have someone to tell about stuff that’s going on in your life, I realized that I’m so glad that this has not been a particularly easy experience, and with every challenge that we’ve been through in the year and a half that we’ve been together, the rewards far outweigh the challenge. We talked about a few other things that we both like about Teammates, and then Ashley reminded me that her most favorite thing about being involved in Teammates is that on a weekly basis she gets to beat me at UNO.