Nevada Middle School is in the midst of starting a new mentor program that would provide children with a mentor until graduation day. It would also provide scholarship opportunities.


Dr. Lisa Hartman, assistant principal at Nevada Middle School, saw firsthand at her previous job the benefits for students who had gone through the TeamMates mentoring program.


“I saw these kids who had the same mentor for years and got all these scholarships,” Hartman said.


Hartman knew she liked what she saw from the program and decided she wanted to try and provide more mentoring opportunities for kids at Nevada Middle School. All paired mentors that were previously established through the YSS program will continue, but all future mentoring pairs will be part of the new program.


TeamMates Mentoring was founded in 1991 and has provided over 35,000 children with mentors. The program was started by Lincoln, Neb., football coach, Tom Osborne, with 22 of his football players and children in middle school from the Lincoln public schools.


Since then, the program has grown to have 148 chapters spread throughout Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Wyoming.


One of the ways TeamMates is different than other mentoring programs is that events and meetings are held at the school in order to ensure better safety for all parties. The program also believes this is a way to help encourage school attendance.


Another difference is the program has mentors follow children all the way to 12th grade.


According to the program, during the 2015-2016 school year, 55 percent of TeamMates mentees improved their academic performance.


Hartman plans to have the students meet with their mentors over lunch or recess, as well as eventually having some events throughout the year.


“It’s kind of wherever the kid leads the conversation,” Hartman said. “It could be conversations about homework — it could be them just playing basketball.”


As the at-risk children population continues to grow, it’s nice to have another adult in their lives who is positive and can help them grow, according to Hartman. However, she said she believes the program will benefit all children.


“Sometimes I think if you’re a kid, you’ve got your teachers who are a great resource for you, but sometimes it’s nice to have somebody who’s completely not connected to you,” Hartman said.


According to Hartman, Nevada Middle School plans to start the program small with about 10 kids at the middle school, then letting the vision grow. Hartman said the hope is to eventually have the program start from elementary through 12th grade. Nevada Middle School currently has about 430 students in fifth through eighth grade.


The mentor program will run through its own board which will be responsible for fundraising and finding mentors. Each mentor must pass a background check, which is where the majority of funds will be allocated.


“We can’t do it without the adults who are willing to mentor a kid,” Hartman said.


Mentors will go through brief training and will also take a strengths program, created by the research firm Gallup, in order to have their strengths and skills identified. This allows for a better match between mentors and mentees.


“For both parties the benefits of mentoring a kid — you can’t even describe how beneficial that is to both people,” Hartman said.


Anyone interested in being a mentor for the program can contact Dr. Hartman through email at lhartman@nevada.k12.ia.us.


Hartman said the school hopes to have the program started by September.