Candyce and Hannah

February 2018 TeamMates of the Month:  Finding Common Ground

Lincoln Southwest senior, Hannah, has been meeting with her mentor, Candyce Hemmer, throughout her high school career. Seeing them now, in the last semester of Hannah’s senior year, you would guess they have always been the best of friends. Hannah and Candy love to play backgammon and talk about everything under the sun. They have played hundreds of games together.

They love to banter while they play, too, even challenging each other on the hot button topics of the day. “We have conversations about all the things you ‘shouldn’t talk about,’ (i.e. politics and religion).” Candy says with a smile, “but important things to talk about for growth.” However, their friendship has not always been so open and carefree.

In fact, their mentoring relationship began quietly, the way many do. Hannah describes the first few months they met as “awkward,” saying, “I was really quiet.”

Being naturally shy, Hannah had a hard time finding her voice. She was happy to have a mentor, but found it difficult to overcome her introvert tendencies offering one-word answers most of the time.

Fortunately, for both Candy and Hannah, they remained committed. Candy continued to meet Hannah consistently at school every week and Hannah continued to give her new mentor a chance. “It took us a while to find topics to talk about.” Candy chimes in, “but once she opened up…” she laughs, “not so much.”

With every meeting, Hannah became more and more comfortable with Candy and came to realize the benefits of having another caring adult in her life. “It’s knowing I always have a friend,” says Hannah. She always has her mentor, “so I don’t really care about who else I’m friends with.”

“It’s an unconditional friendship,” Candy adds. “We will always be friends.”

In the end, their relationship seems simple. “Sometimes it’s just nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of,” says Candy. “I’m here to listen to her when she wants to just vent, and then maybe offer a different perspective after.” Conversations they have over backgammon once a week.

Simple as it may be, the safety net of having an ‘unconditional friendship’ can do wonders for the psyche of a student.  “At the beginning of our TeamMates relationship I was just really quiet,” says Hannah. “She helped me come out of my shell more … to open up more to other people.”

“At first it was awkward, because you’re trying to find common ground,” says Candy. “Then it becomes something worth keeping.”

After graduation, Hannah is planning to study pre-law at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The pair are excited for the next phase of their mentoring relationship, but as some things change some things will always remain the same. Hannah’s favorite tradition with her mentor is one that she plans to continue after graduation, “Beating her at backgammon.” She says with a smile.