Nancy and Isabel

January 2017 TeamMates of the Month: Felt an Instant Connection

Nancy Osborne and Isabel, have been meeting since Isabel was in 3rd grade. She is now a high school senior. They both felt comfortable when they first started meeting. “It was an instant connection,” Isabel said. “The trust was there right away.”

They know they have been lucky. “We have a great relationship,” Nancy said. “We are both talkers and didn’t have trouble talking with each other.”

When they first started, they busied themselves with crafts while they got to know each other. They also played games and completed Origami pieces, but mostly they talked.

Isabel became involved in TeamMates after her father had passed away and at the recommendation of her elementary school counselor.

Isabel appreciates Nancy’s support. “She was there for me and continuously all these years. It was cool to have Nancy,” Isabel said. “I was blessed with the best.”

Nancy, co-founder of TeamMates, replied, “I was blessed with the best.”

Nancy’s involvement in TeamMates began after she watched a TV program where an elderly man was asked to come back to his elementary school and give a presentation. She recalled that the man was wealthy and had lived in a large city. When he visited the school, he was shocked by how his former school had deteriorated. He found the building was run down and that the kids had a lot of needs. As he sat waiting for his turn to speak, he realized that what he had planned to talk about wouldn’t help and changed his planned speech.

“He got up and told them, that if they would graduate from high school, and not get into trouble, he would pay their way to college, for the whole class.” He had stipulations, including that the students had to come downtown, take a bus and/or the subway to come see him once a month to check in.”

Nancy said, “I was blown away by this man’s challenge.” That night when Nancy’s husband, Dr. Tom Osborne, then coach of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln football team, came home, they discussed what they could do.

“He asked football players to volunteer to mentor young kids. He had about 10-20 hands go up and they became the mentors.”
With assistance from Lincoln Public Schools, the program was launched. “To my knowledge, all the kids graduated,” Nancy said “and quite a few went to college. At one of the TeamMates banquets, we were able to bring back some of our first TeamMates.” Over the years, the program has evolved into a school-based mentoring program which provides a safe environment for mentors to meet with children. In Lincoln, the program serves nearly 1,200 children each year. Throughout Nebraska the program serves more than 7,500 mentor-mentee matches.

Throughout their time of being matched, Isabel has valued that Nancy has helped her set goals and in recent months provided information and support as they prepared for Isabel to graduate from high school.

“Nancy and I have been talking about college and setting goals for a long time. I took a few personality tests, which helped. I got accepted to UNL, and I’m not sure what I want to do. I like to interact with people.”

While she is not yet sure of her career path, she will begin at the University of Nebraska with an undeclared major. She is considering interior design, or perhaps photography, but more importantly she said she is interested in a path that puts her in a position to help others.

Nancy proudly added, “she has good leadership skills. She understands people. She is caring. I can see her being very successful in whatever she does.”

Isabel credits Nancy for helping he mature and develop. “I never thought I would be here today. People need people and I want to help others. It’s cool she has stuck with me through the good and bad times.”

Nancy added that Isabel has always been outgoing. “In elementary school, kids would always come up to her. She has lots and lots of friends. She is a good listener. She is a people person.”

Participation in TeamMates has fostered her giving spirit, Isabel said. “I’m on a team at church to help others and a student leadership team to help high school students.”

Isabel would like to be a mentor when she is out of school. “It has helped me. I feel I want to get to know people who are struggling with their home life and help them.” She has observed the many mentors who meet with students at her school and believes it provides a positive experience for all.

Nancy also finds it rewarding to see the adults in the schools. For her, the most rewarding aspect of being a TeamMates mentor is the opportunity to get to know a young person. “It keeps me young. She keeps me up on things. It just does your heart good to see other mentors who care and want to help kids to do their best.”

Nancy advises those who are considering mentoring to “be prepared to be a good listener. Listen intentionally. Isabel’s mother has been great, but many children don’t have someone at home to talk to.”
Isabel agrees on the importance of mentors to listen and be patient. “a lot of teenagers don’t have that special person. It’s hard for teenagers. They need to have that someone.”