Leland and Kevin

May 2023 TeamMates of the Month: Learning Together

Leland and Kevin held their first meetings in the rec center at Irving, “We were playing ping pong, pool and some air hockey,” said eighth-grade Leland. “Basically, me and Kevin were getting used to playing ping pong because it was my first time playing.”

Learning something new was a good way to ease Leland’s mind, “I was pretty nervous because it was my first ever TeamMate,” he said. “I was happy and nervous at the same time, because I’d always be worried to talk to people around me…I felt like they were just gonna say something negative, but Kevin’s a pretty nice guy.”

Now they meet in the library sometimes, where Leland has a chance to feed his curious mind. “He’s into anime,” Kevin said. “So he delves into that and has a really deep understanding.” He’s quick to add, “That’s not the only thing. If something’s interesting, he will research it and learn more about it. He knows the librarians quite well.”

Leland’s interests are particular and lean toward the creative. He recently helped design a T-shirt for the track team at Irving, “No one asked me to do it,” said Leland. “I just wanted to do it, because I really want to sew prom dresses in the future and wedding dresses and all that.” 

Kevin said that Leland’s creativity extends to their pool game too, “We’re creative. We don’t play pool exactly as it should be played, sometimes using hands, taking shots over…” to which Leland adds, “Sometimes I just get annoyed and start using my hands.”

Leland has been surprised that Kevin, “is never mad. And he actually lets me cheat during games (a reference to their unconventional pool games). But whenever we’re playing UNO, he never allows [cheating]. He’s kind though. He always says it in a kind way.”

Kevin laughs, “Well the rules for UNO are a little different.” 

Leland adds, “Sometimes I change them up.”

And Kevin finishes, “As long as you are consistent.”

Kevin asked if Leland wanted to keep meeting in high school next year and he said yes. Leland is most excited about a culinary class he signed up for at Lincoln Southeast. It’s the same school that Kevin graduated from 50 years ago, to which Leland said, “Dang, that school is old.” 

Kevin credits mentoring with getting him out of his retirement bubble. He teaches a class at UNL right now and said he was talking to his students about how to build vocabulary and shared a word game he’d first played with Leland, “It’s called Blurt! You have the definition and you have to come up with the word. He’s got a great vocabulary,” he said of Leland, “which bodes well for him.”

Leland seemed proud of the fact that he added something to Kevin’s class. In just over two years, Kevin has made a difference for him too, “When I started 6th grade, I didn’t want any teacher’s to talk to me, but when Kevin came, I wanted to talk to everybody after that.”