The TeamMates Mentoring program inspires youth through unique relationships


Photo by Courtesy of TeamMates Mentoring

A paired mentor and mentee reading a book during their meeting.

Started in 1991 by University of Nebraska Head Football Coach Tom Osborne and his wife, Nancy, the TeamMates Mentoring program arose in Lincoln, Nebraska with the hope to empower youth who may be in need of support. Growing from the original twenty-two members, this organization has blossomed and established an opportunity to not only create a difference in the mentee’s lives, but to inspire others in an impactful way.

Nancy Osborne saw a show in 1991 about mentoring youth and asked her husband if he thought any of his players on the football team would be willing to mentor students in the Lincoln Public School system. Coach Osborne asked his players, and 22 of them said yes and began meeting with middle school students. From this small group of 22 mentors with just an idea in mind and a whole lot of hope, the TeamMates mentoring program emerged.

The job of being a mentor is simple: you just have to show up and be a friend. Each paired mentor and mentee meet once a week and work towards building a trusting relationship.

“Really, the goal is simple: to inspire students to reach their full potential through mentoring,” Jim Bennett, Coordinator of TeamMates in Lincoln, said.

It’s pretty obvious they’re accomplishing this with it being recorded that 95% of mentees have said they trust their mentor and 82% of mentees report feeling more hopeful about their future.

“We see it play out in many ways that impact not only students but all those they come into contact with,” Bennett said. “We call it the ripple effect.”

It’s true that this program touches the hearts of everyone involved. Michelle Garcia, one of the current mentors in this program, described some of the effects this program has had on her.

“It brings me joy to provide support to our youth because it takes a village to raise kids,” Michelle Garcia said. “It has also taught me how to be a better listener. I’ve learned that it is not always best to provide feedback and advice. Sometimes it is best just to listen.”

Due to such impactful and positive effects, this program has expanded to 192 chapters in 5 states and has been able to serve tens of thousands of students. The TeamMates program is always looking for new volunteers and ways to have positive influences on people everywhere.