Steven and Brian

December 2023 TeamMates of the Month: “A Self You’ve Never Seen Before”

Steven, an LHS sophomore, is clear about what he would tell a peer.

“I’d tell them TeamMates is a great opportunity to put yourself out there, and basically build yourself up into somebody you’ve never seen before. You build up your own confidence and you make a friend along the way.”

His journey began in fourth grade, when Steven’s parents, immigrants from Vietnam, encouraged their quiet son to try out TeamMates to see if it would make a difference. 

Brian, the mentor who has had the pride and pleasure of watching Steven grow and change, remembers the first impression he made on Steven. 

“He couldn’t believe how old I was,” laughs Brian. “He was just being honest. It was fine.”

Steven remembers how comfortable Brian seemed meeting him.

“He looked like he’d been doing it [mentoring] for years. It was very welcoming.”  

Brian continued to listen, and make time and space for Steven.

“Early on, I could tell the playground wasn’t his thing. He was a more intellectual kid. Now, he’s found a crowd that he fits in with. We’ll sit there and a couple guys will come by and look at the chess board and say to me, ‘you’re toast’”.

They both laugh, remembering.

“Now, I can talk to a stranger,” says Steven, “and feel like ‘nothing is weird here’. Brian has definitely helped my future self be less awkward and more welcoming.”

Steven has applied for a UNL engineering internship for next summer. 

And, the change doesn’t stop when Steven leaves school.

“I’m more comfortable having conversations at home too. I like to think that TeamMates was a big factor in making me more open with my family, talking about my feelings more.” He laughs. “Maybe they predicted all of this!”

Steven decides it’s the right time to share something with Brian he’s never shared.

“At the end of eighth grade, I was deciding, ‘What do I do with TeamMates?’” I talked with my family and realized, I don’t want to drop this at all. That was a decision point – we’re going through this together. I’m really happy I didn’t let my weird middle school self stop this for me.”

Brian takes the news in, clearly touched.

“I appreciate that, man. I’m glad too.”

They already plan on having lunch together after graduation. 

“We’re friends for sure,” Brian says.