Christine and Ellanah

February 2023 TeamMates of the Month: Together Again

The story of Ellanah, a 9th grader at Southeast and her mentor Christine, is a story full of trust and an unexpected twist.

It starts at Clinton, where Ellanah had come to rely on a trusted administrator who knew that a TeamMate could accompany her beyond elementary school. Ellanah wasn’t sure, “My aunt told me never to talk to strangers, so why would I want to talk to someone way older than me (Christine was 24)? I didn’t know her.”

Christine, with lots of youth experience, had waited years to have a job flexible enough to mentor, “I’m just super lucky and grateful. I said I’ll take whatever best match you can find me.”

That match was Ellanah who explains their start, “We sat in the room where the administrator I always talked to was, so I felt a little bit comfortable but I kept running back and forth to them and they would say, ‘well, you should probably go make conversation with your TeamMate.’”

Christine picks up when Ellanah pauses, “I could just tell she was checking in with someone she felt comfortable with, which was fine.” She turns to Ellanah, “You didn’t come off like you were apprehensive of me, so I just felt comfortable.”

Ellanah credits a treat that Christine brought as helping trust begin, something that makes Christine laugh, “It’s one of her love languages.”

They played games, talked, did service projects, “We would do the TeamMates monthly things Ellanah laughs, “but we just gave up, because we never did well on them.”

During this time, their impressions of each other were forming. Christine learned that Ellanah was “resilient, intelligent and authentic” and Ellanah discovered that Christine was “flexible, understanding and happy-go-lucky.” Each of them can talk at length about the top three words they chose for their TeamMate, like partners in any valued friendship.

It was a friendship that faced an unwanted test, an indirect result of Covid-19.

“Covid struck down,” Ellanah says “and then we didn’t see each other.”

Since they weren’t able to meet in person and Zoom wasn’t an option for them, neither knew how or when they would see each other again.

Ellanah made it through seventh grade but she didn’t stop missing her mentor, “There was so much happening that I really needed to talk with somebody about.”

At the start of 8th grade, she asked her new facilitator why Christine hadn’t returned. In the confusion of Covid, Christine had mistakenly been told their match had ended.

Christine says, “I got the letter, and I thought, I hope I see her some time…or run into her or something, because we didn’t really have an end meeting or anything.” So, it wasn’t hard to say yes when TeamMates called to explain and re-open the match. 

“It wasn’t even like we were apart,” Ellanah says, “Christine just said ‘it’s been so long’ we hugged and then I started telling her about everything, so the trust has always been there.” 

We are grateful to Ellanah, who reached out to share the story of her TeamMates match, a story with a very happy ending.