Making an impact one mentor at a time

SUTHERLAND, Neb. Dr. Tom Osborne returned to western Nebraska not to talk about Husker football, but rather a non-profit organization he is passionate about, the TeamMates Mentoring Program.

It's a program he and his wife, Nancy, founded in 1991 as a means to help football athletes make an impact on the lives of middle school and high school students.

But for Dr. Osborne, the idea of mentorship started long before his coaching days with the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

In fact, he says his grandfather's story, who was influenced by a preacher and encouraged to get a college degree during a time when only 2 percent of the population in Nebraska went to college, is what keeps he and his wife continuing to mentor two sophomores students to this day.

"I never met that mentor, but I know that mentor had an influence on my life and probably on my children and also the 2,000 odd people that I coached at the university who were impacted in some way by the influence of that mentor," said Dr. Osborne. "So there is a ripple effect that goes down through many generations."

More than 35,000 mentees have been served through the program since 1991. Currently, there are 8,300 matches.

Sutherland currently has 34 matches. The goal is to get to 50 matches.

Kris Forden of Sutherland says she enrolled in the program eight years ago during a time when her husband was going through chemotherapy.

"It was a good break for me mentally," Forden said. "It was good to see that youth again and that excitement again and I totally felt like my mentee helped get me through those rough times."

However, Dr. Osborne says there is still work to be done. The program is hoping to get to 12,000 matches by 2020.

"Interfacing with a young person who cares about you provides a dimension and meaning and purpose in your life that you probably can't find in any other way," he said.

To become a mentor, you must be at least 18 years of age and willing to meet with your mentee for 30 minutes to an hour once a week.