Michael and Brandon

March 2020 TeamMates of the Month: It’s Been a Journey

If Lincoln High Senior Brandon had a fan club, his TeamMates mentor Michael would be the president. As Brandon looks back on his last few years recalling his accomplishments, Michael enthusiastically interjects with additional highlights, “He’s also in the IB Program! Just forgot to mention that? I can barely spell IB,” Michael teases.

Brandon is in the rigorous International Baccalaureate Program at Lincoln High. He also plays cello and violin in the school’s orchestra, assists with the musical, has taught himself two additional instruments, and has a job in food service.

Michael has a full plate, too. He is the audio-visual technician at Lincoln High, but also runs his own small business, serves on two nonprofit boards, and has a two-year-old son. Michael and Brandon’s weekly meeting serves as a welcome break from their busy schedules.

Brandon and Michael have been matched since Brandon was in eighth grade. Over the years, their visits have been mostly conversation-based, rather than focused on any particular activity. Brandon says the dialogue improved his ability to have conversations beyond a classroom setting and helped him manage stress when he transitioned to high school. “He’s become somebody I can talk to about stress,” Brandon explains. “Just having Michael to be able to bounce stuff off of like ‘how should I prioritize this’?”

Although Michael has helped Brandon with stress and time management, Michael recognizes a reciprocal ability to offer new perspectives. In a recent visit, Michael lamented dealing with an expensive car repair. Michael recalls fondly, “he brought it down to life like ‘it’s just a truck man,’” echoing Brandon’s calm inflection. Beyond the stress-relief of conversation, the match values the genuine companionship they’ve gained from TeamMates. “I kinda forget we’re in a [mentoring] program, really” Brandon admits. Michael agrees, “it is a friendship.”

It is a friendship they intend to maintain. Brandon’s upcoming graduation is a source of excitement for both. They believe their history of conversation-based visits will translate well into the transition to phone calls and texting life updates, if Brandon is accepted into one of the out-of-state schools to which he applied.

Michael shares that Brandon’s achievements and promising future give him hope. “I’m excited to see his next three or four years. As he’s doing things, I intend to point out to my son ‘he’s continuing onto school, look how he successful he-“ Michael pauses. “You’re his role model,” he tells Brandon. “You may not know it yet, but you’re gonna be. It’s so cool to know I can use you as an example that hard work actually pays off.”

Brandon is humble to acknowledge his accomplishments, but recognizes his growth. “I’ve grown as a person, and I’ve grown in height!” Brandon jokes, recalling that he was five feet, four inches tall when they first met, compared to his now six-feet-tall stature.

Michael quips, “and I didn’t have any grey hair!”

Brandon points out Michael’s own life transition during their years matched TeamMates. “It was really cool to see him go from single to married, and now he’s got a two-year-old.” Michael agrees, “it’s been a journey!”

Both mentee Brandon and mentor Michael have gone through big life changes during their five years matched as TeamMates. The thing that hasn’t changed is their weekly time together, an opportunity to chat about the challenges and joys of life, and their admiration for one another.