Cara and Natalie

December 2022 TeamMates of the Month: Zoom-Bonded

November 2019 – last year of elementary school for Natalie and the start of a new relationship for her and Cara, her new mentor. “I remember playing a lot of games,” Natalie says and turns to Cara. “Didn’t we play Connect 4 and UNO? We were just getting to know each other.”

Cara nods from across the table in the booth they share and adds, “We just talked about this the other day, how we used to play games and we haven’t played games in a long time. We just talk.”

Maybe that is because a few short months into their friendship, the pandemic reached Lincoln and schools closed. Natalie and Cara were one of over 500 matches that took advantage of Zoom mentoring. “I feel like trust built for us during the pandemic,” Cara says to Natalie, “I remember when your cat would jump up on your desk, or we’d take turns talking about things in our home, like you would show on your Chromebook, ‘I just moved my room around’.” 

Natalie’s mother stayed nearby during their Zoom calls in the beginning, “She thought it was a really good idea and she thought Cara was really nice.”

Natalie and Cara have two dogs at home – an older one and new puppies in both their lives (a corgi for Natalie and a standard poodle for Cara) and that means lots of funny stories says Natalie, “Like when her puppy is tired, he comes to her door and cries like a little toddler, so she let’s the dog in but then he doesn’t want to go to bed.”

Storytelling is central for them. In fact, Cara included “funny” and “family” on her list of top three ways to describe Natalie who loves to tell stories about members of her large family. Her delivery is what makes Cara laugh.

Natalie shares one about her brother who she describes as, “more confident, like he wears these yoga pants and I ask, ‘why are you wearing yoga pants to school?’ and he says, ‘because they’re fun.’ He wears this little book bag to school. He’s very unique in his personality.” When he sees her at school, “He screams at the top of his lungs,” and “sometimes” Natalie likes that.

We all “mirror” people we feel comfortable around – we copy their body language, speech, facial expressions and more. Watching Natalie and Cara interact illustrates that. “We both don’t like pecan pie,” says Natalie and they make matching facial expressions. “We like pumpkin pie though…and carrot cake,” and their faces light up in unison.

They know what being a TeamMate means to them. “If I’m having a bad morning, I have someone to talk to about it and going into the rest of my day…it’s better,” Natalie says and later adds, “I meet one-on-one with Cara, and that’s different than knowing my mom’s friends.”

Cara turns to Natalie, “I feel you often remind me that even when things are hard and stressful that things are going to be okay. It’s kind of your approach. I think adults think it is a way to give back but it’s really a two-way thing.”