Mike and Salvator

November 2018 TeamMates of the Month: We’re Family!

When Mike moved to Lincoln from Scottsbluff, he was looking for opportunities to volunteer and give back to the community. His sons had moved away from home, and with the extra time, Mike hoped his “servant leadership management style” could benefit an organization in the Lincoln area. He’d heard of TeamMates in Scottsbluff and after applying and training in Lincoln, he met his mentee, Salvator.

After observing some of his 5th-grade classmates leaving the room to meet with adults, Salvator asked his teacher for an explanation. She told him about TeamMates. The idea of receiving support from an adult mentor intrigued him, and he was thrilled when his teacher nominated him for the program. So, during that same school year, Salvator met his mentor Mike at West Lincoln Elementary. Back in those days, Salvator describes himself as unsocial and angry, but through maturation and Mike’s influence, he’s changed immensely.

From the first time the two met, Salvator and Mike connected and began playing games. “Sal beats me every time at every game,” says Mike. “Cards, chess, checkers – I can’t beat him!” They also enjoyed shooting hoops. One day Mike presented a challenge to Salvator. “Have you ever tried to kick a ball into the basketball hoop?” he asked. Salvator, up for the challenge, took a soccer ball, headed for half court, and kicked the ball. Amazingly, it went straight through the hoop on the first try!

Mike’s influence on Salvator extends beyond recreation. He has helped him learn to get along with others. “When I was younger, I was bad. It felt good to have power over others, to have others fear me,” Salvator admits. “But over time, Mike has helped me realize that it’s better to not be feared and to have friends.” Mike has stayed committed to Salvator during hard times, coming to school weekly to talk through difficult experiences, helping him to look for the positives.

“He was just a little guy trying to fit in, and now he’s matured and learned to navigate through the turbulent times in life,” Mike says. “He no longer gets caught up in negativity.” Mike and Salvator share a look of satisfaction and pride. It’s evident that Salvator’s growth means a great deal to both of them. “He’s now in student government,” Mike adds, further touting Salvator’s transformation. “He’s let go of his anger and seems happier. He’s goal-driven and has more friends. He gives respect and is respected by others.”

From Mike’s perspective, his weekly meetings with Salvator are a highlight. “Every Friday I look forward to it.” Since meeting with Salvator, Mike better understands the challenges of today’s youth. “The struggles are different than when I was younger. Having someone there to listen and guide is worthwhile.” Mike believes that to be an effective TeamMate, the mentor must be committed and consistent. “If there is no trust, how would he know he could count on me?” Mike explains. He’s been surprised at the trust that has developed between him and his mentee. “When he feels judged by others, it’s nice for him to have a safe place to go.”

Salvator isn’t sure about his future, but he wants to continue to change for the better. “In the past I was counter-productive, but in the future I want to be productive. I want to help rather than hurt.

The admiration Salvator has for Mike is palpable. “Mike has taught me how to ignore people who hurt me. He’s been there when I’ve struggled and keeps me focused on what’s good.” Salvator pauses, reaching for the right words to explain his bond with Mike. “He’s more than a friend or a TeamMate. He’s family.”