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A 20 Year TeamMates Investment

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By Rebecca Svec for Crete TeamMates

 

To understand how deep Gracie and Sabrina’s mentor relationship runs, you need to look back to 2011.

 

Sabrina Reed is a fifth-grader at Crete Public Schools. She moved in from Las Vegas following her parents’ divorce and found Crete and Las Vegas were two very different places.

 

Sabrina is a triplet; a little quiet, a middle-schooler trying to figure out who she can trust. She loves to read and doesn’t mind being off by herself with a book.

 

Zoe White, program director for TeamMates mentoring program, starts to connect with her, learning who she is.

 

One day, Zoe introduces Sabrina to a woman named Gracie Bohmont, a longtime TeamMates mentor. Gracie is a trim and energetic 50-something, who speaks in a gentle voice.

 

“I think you would be a good match,” Zoe tells them both.

 

They were, without a doubt.

But that didn’t mean it would be easy.

 

“I was young and didn’t really understand what (TeamMates) was truly about. I just thought I was going to meet with an older lady once a week and sit in silence,” Sabrina recalls.

 

They did have some awkward lunches; some long silences stretched between small chat and games.  But before long, those lunches were something Sabrina looked toward.

 

“Without realizing it, I started opening up to her and building that connection and that’s when it all started to change for me. Gracie became someone I could talk to and build a relationship with and trust.”

 

Back to the present.

 

Sabrina just finished her first semester at Concordia University in Seward, where she is pursuing a double major in psychology and behavioral science. She received scholarships to join the forensics and cheer teams and competes for both.

 

Gracie is still Sabrina’s mentor, now through TeamMates Plus, which allows mentors and mentees to continue their relationship in college.

 

They meet for breakfast or lunch or sometimes, just coffee. They might talk for 20 minutes; they might look at their watch and realize two hours have passed. “We don’t even have to say everything to understand each other now,” Sabrina said.

She was happy to help out with a TeamMates article, as long as it tells people that “Gracie is the best,” she dictates, laughing.

 

Gracie is the longest continual mentor in Crete Public School’s TeamMates program, a mentor since the program began in 1999. In the 20 years since she has mentored five students, following several until their high school graduation. She now serves on the program’s Board of Directors.

 

Joining TeamMates all those years ago was “way out of my comfort zone,” Gracie said, but she wanted to try, for at least two reasons:

She knew children and the difference-maker mentoring could be. “I was around kids all my life,” she said, describing her childhood in California. Gracie was a foster child adopted by her foster parents and grew up with the other children they took in over the years.

 

She knew, too, that she needed to keep moving forward, staying ahead of that empty space left behind when Monte passed away; Monte, her husband, the Nebraska farmer who convinced a California girl to farm with him by Martell. Their two sons were in high school when he died at age 48.

 

 Mentoring was a new role in her new future. “My boys were still in high school, but getting ready to move on. Crete had just asked for volunteers for the new TeamMates program. I signed up and we all learned together. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Gracie said.

 

Her first match was with a young boy who had also experienced the loss of a family member. They bonded over board games and cookie-frosting lessons. The young man moved away, but Gracie didn’t forget about him, following his progress at a nearby school over the years and even attending his graduation ceremony, walking up to him to see if he remembered her. (He did.)

 

Each time a mentee graduated, Gracie connected with a new student. There were many more lunch hours of cookie-frosting and crafts and games.

Sabrina wasn’t into crafts, Gracie recalled, so they had to find other ways to pass their early meetings together. They took long walks and talked about the latest activity Sabrina was trying - from volleyball to the speech team -- with Sabrina practicing her speeches on Gracie over their lunches.

 

It was her privilege, Gracie said, to watch the transformation of a quiet fifth-grader to a bold, candid and confident young woman. “It’s just like watching your child grow and mature and go through all that they do, but you see them once a week... That’s the challenge, too - you only know what they share. So you just listen, and be there.”

 

It’s exciting, Gracie said, when the crafts and games give way to talks about college and careers.

 

Along with family and teachers, Gracie was an important influence in that process, according to Sabrina. “I love talking with people now and that development stemmed from her and wanting me to open up. ...moving at a young age kind of built that wall for me; she was able to be that person who was able to teach me some things when I didn’t think I could trust anyone.”

 

The positives go both ways, Gracie clarifies. The chance to watch a young person, unafraid and willing to try new things, - “It drew me out, too.”

 

That’s part of their compatibility, that good fit Zoe promised them years before.

 

In Gracie, Sabrina sees a fun-loving person with an adventurous soul. “There’s a softness to her, but also a lightness; she brings light to every situation both through humor and her knowledge.”

 

It was at one of the TeamMates program gatherings, while meeting other mentors and mentees, that Sabrina realized without TeamMates “Gracie probably wouldn’t be in my life and she’s been one of the most important constants in my life.”

 

Sabrina advises both students and adults to give TeamMates a chance.  “At first I thought “I don’t need anybody’s help in my life.’ Now as a young adult I can see that I did need that help. Be accepting and willing of the love and support people around you are willing to give without even knowing you.”

 

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“I just believe in it,” Gracie says simply of TeamMates.  “There are always kids who would love to have another person in their life.”

 

***Want to support your Crete chapter of TeamMates? In addition to the need for mentors, the program also relies on generous community support. Each donation makes a difference (and is also tax-deductible). For information on how to become a mentor, contact Zoe White at 402.826.7775 or zoew@creteschools.org. To make a donation please mail to 1500 E. 15th St. Crete, NE  68333