May 2021 TeamMates of the Month: The Sky’s the Limit
Ms. Bare, the TeamMates facilitator at Prescott Elementary at the time, had three prospective students in mind when she met Jeff, a new mentor assigned to her school. She began by describing Ricky, a fourth grader who was struggling to express his emotions, who was adjusting to his father moving to another state, and who requested a mentor who would draw and play Legos with him. “I was like, ‘this is my dude already,” recalls Jeff. “I don’t even need to hear about the other two. Ricky’s my dude.”
Jeff felt his life experience paralleled Ricky’s, as Jeff lived across the country from his own father growing up. “I remember just not knowing what to do with my emotions and I felt like I saw that in Ricky,” says Jeff.
Ricky admits he was surprised when he first met Jeff, relieved by their commonalities and Jeff’s character. “He was Christian just like I was,” says Ricky. “And calm. He listened and didn’t talk over you because he thought what he was saying was more important. I think I was actually caught off guard by finding a guy that actually existed like that.”
Asked about how long it took to build trust with his mentor, Ricky doesn’t hesitate. “About a week,” he laughs.
After many visits of Lego building and drawing, the pair eventually started playing chess. Jeff taught Ricky what moves the pieces could make, but it soon turned into bigger lessons learned. “Him teaching me chess helped me strategize more, think about things more thoroughly,” explains Ricky. “It teaches you how to manage your risks and be able to succeed in the long run, not only thinking about what’s going on in the moment.”
Ricky and Jeff have now been playing chess and other games for nearly eight years. Now a junior at Lincoln High, Ricky is proud of the commitment they’ve both upheld. “I showed up every single time, happy to see him, knowing my day would be bettered by him, and I hope his was too.”
“I just love what I’ve gotten to gain in a friendship with Ricky,” says Jeff. He is proud of Ricky’s growth and is excited to see what he does and achieves in his life. “It’s just going to be awesome,” beams Jeff. “The sky’s the limit for this kid.”