September 2017 TeamMates of the Month: Finding a Sidekick
“It’s not bad to let somebody in,” says Suha, a sophomore TeamMates mentee at North Star. “It’s not bad to have somebody there for you. It’s not bad to think that somebody cares. It’s not bad to get close to someone.”
This is a piece of advice Suha shares for any new mentee. But it took Suha almost a year and a half to learn that lesson for herself. When she thinks of meeting her mentor, Peggy Bohrer, for the first time as a third grader, (a fact that is often the source of a friendly debate between the two) she remembers being scared. “The first day, I wanted to tell the teacher I didn’t want her,” recalls Suha. “But then I thought, ‘oh, I don’t have to do math!’”
Peggy agrees that it took some time for them to truly be comfortable with each other and to see if she had any effect on Suha. “I have kids of my own that are about her age, and as a mom you wonder if you’re doing the right thing, so I wondered if I was doing the right thing with her,” explains Peggy. “I was always questioning if I was really making an impact on her life or if I was just getting her out of math.”
Knowing that a strong bond couldn’t be forced or rushed, they started off playing Ping Pong and drawing together. The two laugh as they remember the basic grass, flowers and sun Peggy would always draw. Suha reassures her, “It wasn’t bad. I don’t want to say it was horrible.”
Over time, Suha and Peggy got more comfortable with each other and their relationship strengthened. “It took me a while to open up because I wasn’t the type of person to share my feelings,” admits Suha. “But since she kept showing up every time, I knew she was going to be there for me. By fourth or fifth grade, I got comfy.” “I try to just be her confidante, a person she can talk to,” explains Peggy. “I know she may not always have that in other areas.” Now Peggy and Suha refer to each other as their “sidekick”.
During their 7 years together, they’ve shared many special memories. The day that sticks out in Suha’s mind is the last day of 5th grade. Suha was anxious to see Peggy one last time before the summer break. As the day went on, she repeatedly asked her teacher if Peggy could come one more time. “Guess who showed up?” Suha asks as she tells the story. “I really didn’t think she’d show up. I was going to cry. It felt so nice that she actually came.”
Peggy sees a lot of strength in Suha. She proudly remembers Suha displaying her strength and courage at an assembly at Dawes Middle School. Suha spoke about grit as she told the entire school her life story. “That was a big moment for me,” admits Suha. “I needed her to be there.” Peggy sat in the front row, supporting Suha. “She did an amazing job. She opened my eyes to a lot of different things, different ideas, different ways of doing things, different ways of life. And that’s been good for me,” Peggy says.
Instead of playing games or drawing, Peggy and Suha now spend their time together talking about what’s going on in their lives and focusing on the future. Suha is looking forward to getting her driver’s license, keeping her grades up and continuing to make good choices. And she’s looking forward to having her sidekick by her side for all of it.