Verla and Rose

May 2019 TeamMates of the Month: Rooted and Blooming

Portrait of smiling senior female mentor and high school-aged female mentee

Verla met Rose during one of the most difficult years of Rose’s life – the year she and her family were coping with the death of her older brother. Rose was a fourth-grader at the time, and her mother made the decision to request a TeamMate to support her daughter.

Verla was new to Lincoln, finding her place in the community through various clubs and activities. Her son advised her to get involved in TeamMates. She did, and a few weeks later she met a very shy little girl at Adams Elementary.

During their initial meeting, Verla observed Rose as she found a tiny scrap of paper and began drawing. Art seemed to be Rose’s safe place, and Verla saw she was talented.  Their next meeting, Verla came equipped with a box of art supplies so that Rose could draw while they talked. The art box stayed at the school, and at each visit it was pulled out.

“I still have an eraser from that box,” Rose says.  She pulls out a well-used, white eraser from her backpack. “It’s my favorite.”

It took months before Rose was willing to trust Verla, but over time, the walls came down, and a strong bond formed.  More than eight years later, the two have an amazing connection and great admiration for one other.

“She’s like a rose that has opened up and blossomed,” Verla says. “I’m so glad to see that she has many interests, and she is so intelligent.”

In middle school Rose became interested in music, and over the course of high school she has played the clarinet in Jazz Band, Marching Band, and Wind Ensemble. Verla has attended many concerts, as well as diving meets, and Color Guard competitions.  Just last month Rose received recognition for her 4.0 plus grade point average that she has maintained for the past three years, and between academic and extra-curricular commitments, she makes time to volunteer at FoodNet.

Like most teens, Rose has faced challenges, including bullying. A few times she has met Verla with tears in her eyes. “It’s nice to have someone to talk to who doesn’t demand answers.”  With Verla’s support, Rose has learned to set boundaries, recognize toxic situations, and seek assistance. “Rose realizes that it’s okay to ask for help, a good lesson to learn so young,” Verla says.

“It’s nice to have someone to talk to who doesn’t demand answers.”  With Verla’s support, Rose has learned to set boundaries, recognize toxic situations, and seek assistance. “Rose realizes that it’s okay to ask for help, a good lesson to learn so young,” Verla says.

Rose and Verla’s relationship has produced many moments of joy. “Just last week we were playing Jenga in the quiet library, and every time the stack of blocks was knocked down – well, it was just hilarious,” says Rose. “Meeting with Verla gives me something to look forward to each week.”

Their meetings have often involved games: Jenga, Hand and Foot, Connect Four, Go Fish, and Checkers. As they have played, they’ve shared lively conversation. “Rose loves puns and poetry. She likes to excel at everything she does. She always wants to do her best.”

Now on the cusp of graduating from high school, Rose is apprehensive about the changes. “College is another big step,” she says. “Verla has provided recommendations for each scholarship and helped me with some of the paperwork.” She plans to pursue nursing at the University of Nebraska to receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She has completed a phlebotomy class and hopes to work at a hospital drawing blood once she graduates from Lincoln Southeast High School in May.

Rose feels more grounded because of Verla’s presence in her life.

“She’s been a constant for me. TeamMates has given me a defined space to talk, to have someone there for me, willing to hang out, and listen without judgment.”

Rose’s eyes glisten with emotion. “Verla is no blood relation to me but such an important part of my life.” Verla reaches out a hand, and Rose grasps it.

Their bond of friendship will continue. Verla and Rose are considering the TeamMates’ post-secondary program, TeamMates Plus. “I want to help Rose to be strong in whatever happens in her life,” says Verla. “We will definitely continue our relationship. We cannot simply drop a nine-year bond.”

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