Typically, Lincoln TeamMates mentors and students play cards in the school library or shoot hoops in the gymnasium. These days, TeamMates matches have been connecting electronically, amid school closures that put an early halt to in-person weekly meetings. Per program guidelines, visits between TeamMates matches must take place at the student’s school, so when schools closed, mentoring was also put on hold. Knowing the importance of these friendships and the consistency they bring to students’ lives, the Lincoln chapter staff immediately began to strategize how to facilitate mentoring despite matches’ inability to meet face to face.
We first came up with an email exchange, in which staff worked as a go-between in order to follow TeamMates’ safe communication policies and utilize the laptops provided to students by their schools. Working remotely, TeamMates staff passed more than 3,600 emails between mentors and students. The messages they contained were encouraging, hopeful, and full of empathy, advice for mitigating stress, and quips about toilet paper.
A few weeks later, TeamMates began offering Zoom video meetings, with a staff member facilitating each call. For those staff members, a highlight of the summer was watching student and mentor faces light up when they saw one another on the screen. Over the remainder of the school year and the summer, 275 Zoom calls remotely connected TeamMates matches around the city.
“The adaptability mentors and students have shown is proof of our matches’ dedication to one another. In these strange times, being able to connect with someone who’s been a constant in your life is really important for kids,” said Audrey Watson, a match support specialist with Lincoln TeamMates.
“I don’t think he knew how much he misses seeing other people,” one parent said following their child’s Zoom call. “I can’t imagine how much work it has been to organize this. It is very much appreciated.”
Lincoln TeamMates is hopeful that matches will be able to reconnect in person at school this fall. TeamMates mentors are currently approved in the LPS Pandemic Plan and Procedures at the medium and high risk levels while schools are conducting in-person learning. However, TeamMates recognizes that the need to provide remote meeting options for matches will be ongoing. We look forward to continuing to develop ways to help mentors and mentees stay both safe and connected this upcoming school year.