Nola and Ashlie

November 2017 TeamMates of the Month: Being There Through Transitions

As Nola Derby-Bennett cleaned out her office at The HUB, preparing to transition to a new career as the director of LPS’ Community Learning Centers, she rediscovered years’ worth of photos she took with her mentee, Ashlie.

Nola and Ashlie started meeting as TeamMates when Ashlie was in fourth grade at Meadow Lane Elementary and each week they would take a series of photo booth photos in the media center. The media center specialist would print off two copies that they each could take as a keepsake from their weekly meetings.

“Half of one of my walls at home is all our pictures,” shares Ashlie. Nola adds, “It’s fun to look back because you were so little!”

After Ashlie moved from Meadow Lane to Arnold Elementary, she and Nola continued to meet weekly, but their photo booth sessions became less frequent. Nola was also by Ashlie’s side as she transitioned to middle school. “It was overwhelming at first,” says Ashlie. “I’d talk to her about it and she’d tell me, ‘you’re going to be okay.’” Doing her homework on the Chromebook was a change that took Ashlie about the first quarter to adjust to, but she appreciated being able to just talk to or ask advice from Nola, as she settled in to middle school.

Now, an 8th grader at Schoo, Ashlie and Nola talk about everything – friends, family, homework, etc.; and of course, the occasional drama that comes along with being in middle school. “We meet right after lunch, so sometimes the drama is fresh,” Nola says. “So we kind of process where to go from there, what to take seriously and what to let go, and how to take the high road.”

During their years together, Ashlie has found it easier to open up and Nola notices she has gained more of an ability to trust. “I think there were times she would lay stuff out there to see how I would respond, to see if there would be judgment, and there isn’t.”

But Nola is most impressed by Ashlie’s resiliency. “She just rolls with stuff. She’s really kind to her friends and I see, that despite some of the drama that goes on in their lives, she knows she wants to be a good person and a good friend. She tries hard and seeks out opportunities for growth. I don’t think she lets some of the stuff that happens, define who she is as a person.”

Ashlie and Nola are excited to see what the future holds for Ashlie. “I want to open a bakery. I’m actually really good at baking.” She enjoys finding new recipes online to try and has some family-favorite recipes she knows by heart, including one her mom taught her for peanut butter cookies.

They have started to talk more about what that transition to high school will look like and the different opportunities available, like The Career Academy, which can help her get a head start on achieving her dream of opening her own bakery.

Nola thinks the best way she can help Ashlie is by “just being here. It’s really about being somebody who is non-judgmental and who just wants good things for her and wants to see her be successful in life. I think that is how I can help her, just being here for her and being consistent.”