LINCOLN, NE – When Tom Osborne is in front of Memorial Stadium, football is usually the main topic.
There was no absence of Husker Football chatter from the hall of fame coach on Wednesday, but the main business at hand dealt with the TeamMates mentoring program, which Osborne launched along with his wife, Nancy, in 1991.
TeamMates’ goal is to provide support and encouragement to school-aged youth. TeamMates currently serves 9,400 youth in 160 communities across Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Iowa and soon, South Dakota.
There are always plenty of youth looking to be mentored, but according to Osborne, there aren’t always enough mentors.
“We always have about a third more kids who want mentors than we have mentors,” he said.
In Lincoln alone, there are about 1,200 youth being mentored, but about 700 on a waiting list. In some cases, youth have been waiting for two-three years.
TeamMates wants to be helping 12,000 students by the year 2020. To reach that goal, Osborne unveiled a new initiative.
Every year, TeamMates has their “Back-To-School Challenge” as a way to find new mentors.
That challenge has a new twist in 2018.
“We’re going to have some kind of a contest which we hope will spur mentoring throughout TeamMates and throughout the state,” Osborne said.
Any new mentor from August 1 – November 30, and current mentors who nominate new ones, are put in a drawing for a four-day trip of their choice in the continental U.S., courtesy of Travel and Transport.
The second prize will be $500 put toward airline tickets for a trip anywhere in the continental U.S., also courtesy of Travel and Transport.
The third prize will be a dinner for four people with Tom and Nancy Osborne.
Osborne hopes this contest will attract up to 1,000 new mentors by the end of the year. While this giveaway is sure to attract a strong number of new volunteers, TeamMates program director DeMoine Adams explained the other rewarding benefits of becoming a mentor.
“I’d say most of us have been mentored by someone,” Adams said. “I’ve had the opportunity to give back and share my experiences, help someone to be resilient in school and give them life skills. I think there’s no better reward than that. The best things in life aren’t things. The best things in life are ”
In its 27 years, TeamMates has helped over 35,000 youth and has given away annual scholarships for graduating high school seniors who go onto college or some type of post-secondary education.
In 2018, TeamMates awarded 159 scholarships worth $3.7 million.
“We’re truly making a difference,” Adams said. “Our high school graduation rate is 91 percent, which is a lot higher than the national rate (83.2 percent in 2016).”
What about football? With Nebraska beginning the Scott Frost era on Saturday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. central against Akron, Osborne was sure to express his excitement for the upcoming season.
“Scott had success here as a player, and he understands the culture, and of course his success at Central Florida has been impressive,” he said. “That’s been miraculous in a way. On the other hand, the miraculous turnaround there doesn’t mean it’s going to be that immediate or that easy here. I want people to be conscious of the fact that it takes awhile.
“I think (Scott) will make significant progress very quickly…they’re doing the right things. There’s no question in my mind.”
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @Tommy_NCN.