PLATTSMOUTH – To be an adult mentor to a young person doesn’t need to sacrifice much personal time.
And, the positive benefits could last forever.
“It can be a lifelong friendship,” said Barbara Dietrich, a local mentor.
Fellow mentor Bob Hahn added, “One of the advantages of mentoring is that you have direct contact with a member of another generation, perhaps several generations removed. This gives you some insight into the thinking and actions of that age group and makes you more aware of what general issues or challenges they face.”
As the nation celebrated National Mentoring Month in January, the importance of this volunteer service is growing here.
There are approximately 72 mentors in the Plattsmouth area through the TeamMates Mentoring program today, about three times as many just a few years ago, said Jan Stuckey, who became a mentor just recently.
“People are becoming aware of this program,” she said.
The goal of this program is to impact society in a positive way by inspiring youth to reach their full potential through mentoring.
A mentor spends just 30 or so minutes per week visiting with his or her student, or mentee, at the student’s school.
“This is not a huge time requirement,” Stuckey said.
The discussion is wide open.
“It’s whatever they want to talk about,” added Dr. Richard Hasty, superintendent of the Plattsmouth Community School District, and a mentor for eight years.
“In many cases for the mentor, it’s more about listening.”
The visits don’t have to be in a room, either. The two can walk around the building, play ball in the gym, play cards, do crafts projects, etc., according to the mentors.
For the mentors, the important aspects are to provide encouragement to the mentees and to be consistent with the visitations so as to show real interest in the mentees’ daily lives.
At least 24 half-hour visits from the mentors during the regular school year are required.
Such visits seem to be making positive changes among the students, according to figures provided by TeamMates.
During the 2017-18 school year, 62 percent of the mentees showed academic improvement, while 83 percent had fewer disciplinary referrals, and 49 had fewer unexcused absences.
With parental permission, mentors and mentees can occasionally go on special trips. Many from this area, for example, went together to the University of Nebraska’s spring football game.
The TeamMates Mentoring Program was founded in 1991 by Dr. Tom and Nancy Osborne. Tom Osborne, the head football coach at UNL at the time, felt his athletes could make a positive impact on area students. Of the 22 original mentees, 21 went on to graduate from high school, while the other one left school early to pursue a successful Motocross career. Most who graduated went on to college.
Today, there are chapters in four states.
“I think anyone involved in mentoring would hope they have been a positive influence on their mentee’s future, whatever that may be,” Hahn said. “It may take months or years before we really know how effective we were, and maybe we will never know. You can only hope that somehow you have brightened their path in some way and maybe at some point when they are a bit down in spirits or are having a bad day they will recall a conversation or a specific time when the two of us shared a moment that brings back a bit of sunshine to their life.”
While the number of mentors here is increasing, more are needed, Hasty said.
“There are still more students on the waiting list,” he said.