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TeamMates remains point of pride in Butler County

January 2, 2019

Editor’s note: The print version of this story stated the event takes place on the 24th due to misinformation provided to The Banner-Press. The Banner-Press had already gone to print when it learned of the mistake and has updated the online version.

Butler County residents aren’t just generous with their time during the holidays – it’s a year-round thing.

Those who need more proof can find it when 51 adults are recognized starting at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 10 in the David City High School gymnasium for their efforts with the TeamMates Mentoring Program of Butler County.

“I don’t even have to call and remind them,” said Michelle Romshek, coordinator for the local chapter of the program about adults who help out with it. “I have people calling me and asking if they’re back in school yet. They’re just as excited as the kids.”

Former Nebraska Cornhuskers football coach Tom Osborne and his wife, Nancy, founded the TeamMates Mentoring Program in 1991 with 22 University of Nebraska-Lincoln football players and 22 Lincoln elementary students. In 1998, it was formalized as a statewide program and now has chapters throughout the state, including in Butler County. It has also blossomed into an initiative that serves more than 8,500 youth across Nebraska, Wyoming, Kansas, South Dakota and Iowa.

Locally, David City Elementary and High, Bellwood and Dwight Elementary, St. Mary’s Catholic, Aquinas and East Butler High schools all participate in the program. All the schools will be represented in the Jan. 10 David City Invitational, where mentors will be honored and presented a small token of appreciation for their efforts.

As part of the program, mentors meet with mentees for one-on-one time once a week for 30 minutes during the school year. During that time, mentors and mentees will talk or participate in an activity that can be done at the school. Sessions are done only during school hours and during the academic year.

“They can shoot hoops, play board games, they do all kinds of things,” Romshek said.

Jason Lavicky, who is the president of Bank of the Valley in David City, has served as a mentor for the Butler County chapter of TeamMates since its inception several years ago. He said shooting baskets, playing board games and helping decorate a Christmas tree at a retirement community have been some of the activities he and his mentee have done throughout the years. But, he said, there’s also plenty of time to talk about school, family, friends and more.

Lavicky referred to the old adage “it takes a village to raise a child” when discussing why he feels the program is important.

“I think it’s a chance for members of the community to give back,” he said. “It’s a great experience for me, and I would hope the individual I’m mentoring.”

Romshek said the program has done wonders locally and everywhere else that has implemented it, noting kids in the program have shown improvement academically and seem happier.

“I just love the excitement of the kids. Working at the school, when I walk down the hall and tell kids their mentor is here, they’re so excited,” said Romshek, Bellwood administrative assistant. “Or they’ll come in excited the day their mentor is supposed to come.”

It isn’t an overwhelming commitment either. Mentors are asked to spend 30 minutes per week with a mentee, she said, noting most people spend their lunch break with a student.

Lavicky said he would encourage people to become a mentor, but only if their willing to be consistent with their commitment.

“The challenging side is making sure you get there every week because when you make the commitment, (the kids) come to expect to see you and they look forward to seeing their mentors,” he said, adding it’s a rewarding experience.

To schedule an interview for the TeamMates Mentoring Program, contact Romshek at romshekm@dcscouts.org or log onto teammates.org, click the mentors’ tab and search Butler County. Butler County currently has 11 kids waiting to be matched with a mentor, Romshek said.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about it,” she said, noting there must be an 18-year age difference between mentors and mentees. “Anybody who wants to work with a child can do so after a background check.”

The program is always taking students. Mentees can be nominated one of three ways. They can be nominated by a parent, a school staff member, or even self-nominate. Mentors are not tutors, counselors, nor are they there to “fix” anything— they’re there to be friends. Mentors are matched with mentees based on interests and life experiences.

Meanwhile, the open-to-the-public event later this month will serve as a celebration in honor of January being National Mentoring Month, during which programs across the country recognize mentors for their service and the impact they’re making on youth.

“We are grateful for every TeamMates mentor,” TeamMates Executive Director Sarah Waldman said, in a statement. “Every TeamMates mentor I speak with talks about how mentoring has been an incredibly positive experience for them. I hope more caring adults will join us so they too can experience the positive impact of mentoring.”

Romshek shared a similar perspective.

“As a parent, I have four kids. I think, ‘what’s a half hour?’ But how often are we able to just spend a half hour with a child uninterrupted?” she said. “Life is crazy busy, so this is adult interaction. An adult is focused solely on them and they just absolutely love.”

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.

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