FCCLA ‘teams’ up with local TeamMates mentoring program

Retired+David+City+Middle+School+science+teacher+Russ+Krupicka+meets+with+his+mentee+during+Access+period.+Krupicka+has+been+mentoring+his+new+match+since+Nov.+20%2C+doing+activities+like+magnet+sculptures+and+talking+about+life+while+doing+small+projects.

Maya P.

Retired David City Middle School science teacher Russ Krupicka meets with his mentee during Access period. Krupicka has been mentoring his new match since Nov. 20, doing activities like magnet sculptures and talking about life while doing small projects.

Maya P., Co-Editor

Every year, David City High School’s FCCLA raises money to donate to a specific organization, and this year, they’re taking an interest in the TeamMates mentoring program.

During their January meeting, FCCLA members decided that this year’s proceeds from selling Valentine’s Day cookies would go to the TeamMates fund. FCCLA adviser Tonya Zegers intends for their over $1,000 contribution to be used in funding the activities associated with TeamMates, hoping to eliminate all costs for families during outings with the program mentors.

“This year, since TeamMates is just getting on its feet, it takes so much to start it. We thought it would be a good place for [the Valentine’s cookie money] to go this year,” Zegers said.

Although TeamMates meetings between mentors and mentees are restricted to during school time, family outings with the mentor have also been considered. While TeamMates was cultivated by donations from the community, if families want to plan a day out with the mentor, its out of their own pocket, Zegers said.

TeamMates is designed to provide students from elementary to high school with the support and encouragement they might not otherwise receive. Mentors are selected for the program after the completion of an application, background check, and initial training. An informational letter and consent form is sent to the parents to sign before their child can be included in the program.

After they’re matched, students meet with their mentor and spend one class period a week doing homework, playing games, or enjoying other activities. Most of the students involved begin the program in elementary school, but mentors can stay matched with their mentees as far as their senior year in high school.

When implementing the program to David City Public Schools, superintendent Chad Denker brought his experience from his past years coordinating the program at the schools in Seward and Kimball. Denker intended to start TeamMates next year, but the process was advanced by a call from the program creator and former Husker football coach Tom Osborne suggesting it start sooner.

“I thought, who am I to tell Tom Osborne no?” Denker said. “We met with a group of community members and agreed there would be support, so we started the formal process of requesting to implement a program.  It all happened in year one instead of year two, but I am glad we did not wait.”

Normally, the program only deals with one school per coordinator, but DCPS’s TeamMates program stretches farther than that.

“We are running this program countywide, which involves three school districts instead of one, so that creates a few extra challenges, but also an opportunity to generate some collegiality among the schools,” Denker said.

Mentors range from all over the community, some even mentoring at multiple schools. Retired David City Middle School teacher Russ Krupicka mentored at the beginning of the year for Aquinas, but was then assigned to a student at DCHS because of scheduling complications.

“The tough part is to get the two schedules to fit. He has a big life and I have a big life, and we both take the effort to meet,” Krupicka said referring to his program mentee. “I think we’ll become best friends, but it might take some time.”

Though the program has expanded to 31 matches between the three school districts, Denker said that he would like to see the number of matches grow. The program’s most prominent obstacle is finding men willing to be mentors.

“We hope TeamMates is filling a void in the community. We are not only providing students with an extra caring adult in their lives, but also giving adults a chance to interact with young people and volunteer in our schools,” Denker said. “Hopefully, it is a rewarding experience for both.”