Select Page

     Mentor: A person who gives a younger or less experienced person help and advice over a period of time, especially at work or school. – Cambridge Dictionary

As a football coach, Tom Osborne often was a step or two ahead of the competition.

His Nebraska Cornhuskers won three national championships and 13 conference titles during his 25 years at the helm.

So when it was announced that he was coming to South Dakota to keynote a prayer breakfast at the end of March in Rapid City, I figured he was just getting a jump on the National Day of Prayer coming up this week.

Turns out that Osborne, known as a man of strong Christian convictions, had set his sights on the Rushmore State as a place to expand his Teammates Mentoring Program.

The program is designed to help youth. Let’s face it, our state – probably every state –  could use some assistance. With a significant percentage of broken homes, drugs, alcohol infractions, and a myriad of temptations not new to this generation of kids, a program that works is worth considering.

The Teammates program, started by Osborne and his wife in 1991, is unusual in its simplicity and effectiveness.

It partners with school districts as a platform to reach juveniles. Volunteer mentors from the community meet and spend time with a youth at least once a week. They help with homework, shoot baskets, or simply listen.  In establishing trust, they build a bridge to helping.

The goal is for teens to finish high school. But that’s the big picture. Mentors help kids figure out what their strengths are and what they are interested in doing after high school. It could be vocational training, college, or the military. Or, it may be finding work that is fulfilling and will provide a livelihood that the youth will enjoy. The program is all about self discovery, goal-setting, and trust.

Think of the kids that could benefit. How many times have you heard a youth say he just didn’t know what he was going to do with his life?

Osborne puts it this way: “People face different challenges today that affect them personally. If we are going to make a difference, we have to get involved with them as one-to-one mentors. We know that one student at a time, we can make a difference not only in this generation but for generations to come.”

Proof of the program’s success comes from its use by 160 school districts in Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming and Iowa. More than 8,400 youth are involved.

Sounds like an opportunity for South Dakota.

May 2, 2018