Mark and Leland

August 2018 TeamMates of the Month: Fun Factor

“You’re going to have a TeamMate,” the note from Leland’s counselor read. When the match met for the first time during third grade, the connection was immediate. Mark, Leland’s mentor, was prepared for mentoring by serving as a Boy Scout leader and teaching Sunday School for over 25 years. In fact, he learned about TeamMates during a recruiting event at Southwood Lutheran Church.

The match began at Arnold Elementary where the two shared fun activities such as handicrafts, art projects, board and card games. “It’s fun to meet and do activities together,” Mark said, giving a cross-eyed, tongue-out silly face to Leland. They laugh easily together. “Sometimes I wonder if I make a difference,” admits Mark, “but if I’m gone a week, Leland asks why and tells me he missed me.”

“Yea,” Leland says. “The first time he missed, I cried.” Mark gives an apologetic look, and Leland bursts into a grin. “I got over it,” he says with another smile.

Not only do Mark and Leland engage in fun hobbies, but they enjoy conversing. Leland does most of the talking, and Mark is content to listen. Leland loves fun facts, and Mark is privy to them, along with details about every new experience or challenge. “He helps me to think about school and everything I face,” Leland said spinning his ever-present phone. “He gives me advice, and I listen to what he says.”

The two have navigated several difficulties, the biggest being Leland’s transition from elementary to middle school. Now a seventh-grader at School, Leland shares a not-so-fun fact: “Everybody in elementary was nice, but when they went to middle school, they immediately changed.”

“Leland got bullied a little bit because of his size,” Mark explains. “I’m still the third shortest person in the school,” Leland says. “But you’re taller,” Mark encourages.

Another fun aspect of the relationship is their contrasting views of technology. Mark loves his i-Phone 5, while Leland wants the latest gadgets. “He keeps me up-to-date on current technology and games,” Mark says.

Computers are at the heart of Leland’s future plans. He hopes to build programs from scratch and become a game developer. On technology, the match differs, but when it comes to math, they agree. “Math is our friend,” states Mark in a semi-silly voice. “My favorite number is pi.” Leland bursts out in laughter. The mentee launches into a tale about his brother showing him a YouTube video of a song about pi. Mark, completely engaged, listens with sincere interest.

Mark’s joy has affected his mentee’s life. “He’s taught me how to have fun,” Leland shares enthusiastically, delving into another story about a time when Mark and he drew an elephant with glasses on the board of a classroom in which they met. More laughter. More fun. After eleven years of mentoring in the TeamMate’s program, Mark is still a big fan. “It’s a great program, and we should have lots more people doing it.

“That’s what I would say, too,” Leland agrees with his trademark laugh. The fun factor is what bonds this mentor and mentee. As I leave the two friends, they are still talking, still laughing, still enjoying the connection they share.