Carrie and Monika

April 2019 TeamMates of the Month: Take Care of It

female mentor and mentee match standing and smiling at camera

Whether friendship drama, school stress, or other life struggles, Monika can count on her TeamMate of five years to remind her to “Take care of it,” a maxim that encourages the eighth-grader to deal with issues rather than avoid them. With Carrie’s consistent support, Monika has been able to improve her habits, grades and relationships.

Carrie and Monika were first matched when Monika was in third grade at Hill Elementary. Monika received an announcement in her Friday take-home folder about TeamMates and learned that her grandma had been a TeamMates mentor, compelling her to participate in the program. Similarly, Carrie’s grandfather had a great passion for TeamMates and dreamed of watching his mentee graduate from high school. Sadly, he passed during his mentee’s senior year. A mental image of her grandfather’s mentee sitting by his bedside while in hospice left an indelible mark on Carrie’s memory.

As with many matches, the first few meetings felt a bit awkward. But then, Carrie discovered that Monika enjoyed the outdoors, so they began taking walks. As they walked, Monika opened up, and their bond formed. The two also enjoy playing games and “trash talking” as they compete.

“We play a lot of Uno, and I always win,” Monika says.

“That’s because you cheat,” Carrie retorts with a smile.

Over the five years of walking, talking, playing games, and growing their friendship, Carrie has seen Monika change.

“She is more confident, more focused in school, and has shown academic growth. She’s turning into a wonderful young lady.”

The trust that has been built over the years allows Carrie to be more straightforward and real about life issues. “She’s resilient,” Carrie says. “She’s been through tough things, and here she is with a smile on her face.”

Because Monika hopes to be a volleyball player in high school, one day Carrie enlisted the help of Monika’s counselor, Mrs. Beatty, to help them work on Monika’s overhand serve. The only place available to practice was a hallway near the gym. The crazy serving lesson, balls bouncing off the walls and ceilings of the hallway and curious looks by other students stands as one of their favorite memories. “I was embarrassed but also thankful for the help,” Monika says.

Both Carrie and Monika believe they are an excellent match. “We just clicked. I can easily talk to her, and we trust one another,” Carrie says. Although they love to joke around, Carrie knows that, at this point, they can discuss hard things, knowing that Monika will listen to her. “She knows she can depend on me. The individual attention she gets doesn’t happen much in our world.”

“We always wish we had more time when we meet,” Monika says. The two talk about their families, friendships, and the struggles of life. “When we meet, Carrie boosts me up.”

What surprises Carrie most about TeamMates is how meaningful their relationship is.

“It’s such a small amount of time that has such a big impact. It’s a little thing, but it’s making a big difference in both of our lives.”

Her own experience with Monika along with the memory of her grandfather and his mentee remaining bonded until her grandfather’s death speak to the long-lasting influence of TeamMates.

Monika feels the impact, as well. “I have a person to talk to, someone to help me, someone to connect with.” With Carrie by her side, Monika is celebrating accomplishments and facing difficulties. She’s “taking care of it” and experiencing success.

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