The North Platte chapter of TeamMates gathered at the Adams Middle School cafeteria Thursday evening for a spaghetti feed to honor mentors for the contributions they make.
Miss Nebraska Allison Tietjen and Miss Fur Trade Days Outstanding Teen Gabriella Wagner joined 40-45 mentors, mentees and family members at the celebration.
There was entertainment, recognition of all the volunteers, and a plea for more adults to join up.
The spaghetti dinner is held every January during Nebraska TeamMates recognition month.
“And tonight, we have Miss Nebraska that will speak and play the piano, along with a lot of talented high school kids that entertain us,” North Platte TeamMates Coordinator Molly Morales said .
Morales expressed gratitude for every mentor.
“We have around 40 now, but can use a lot more,” she said. “We have several kids waiting for a mentor. I want people to know that it is a rewarding experience. Some people say they don’t have time to be a mentor, but if they have time to drive to Wendy’s for a burger, then they have enough time. It just takes 20-30 minutes a week with a youngster, and it can make a lifelong change in their life.”
Tietjen has known about the program since her high school days at Chester.
“When I became Miss Nebraska, they asked if we would partner up with TeamMates, and now I am taking the steps to become a mentor myself.”
Mentor Tim O’Connor has been at it for 12 years.
“Dr. Kim Baxter has been really instrumental in keeping it going — he and Annette Woodhead,” O’Connor said. “I am sure if you talk to every mentor here, they will tell you that they get more out of it than the kids, and it is a great opportunity to reach out and meet and help someone.”
O’Connor mentors North Platte High School sophomore Brandon Carr.
Carr said he loves the program. He became interested because he needed help with his studies.
“I had a hard time with my homework and thought a mentor could help me,” he said. “He does, but now we do a lot more than that, he is great.”
Mentor John Martin said it does not require special skills.
“I teach my mentees to play the guitar, because that is what I do. Sometimes I am matched with kids who may have a few troubles in their lives, but that is okay, because I had some too. You just do what you do best when you become a mentor.”
North Platte Junior High student Anissa Hoffman is sold on the program.
“I love it because I can come meet with Helen (Rosso) and I can tell her everything that I would not tell anyone else,” she said. “It is just awesome, she brings me food and talks to me and we have fun.”
Baxter has been with the TeamMate chapter in North Platte since it began 20 years ago. He’s also served on the state board.
He said he became interested in the organization when he learned Dr. Tom Osborne started it.
“I have always been a fan of his as a football coach and how he uses his influence for good,” Baxter said. “He and his wife are some of the finest and most generous people I have ever known. When he rolled the program out, it gave it a lot of credibility with me so I got onboard.”
Baxter said guiding young people is important.
“We only have so much time in life and giving back to our youth is a key thing,” he said. “If you can mentor and make a difference in one person’s life, especially a young person, you don’t know how many more that one will influence. If you have never been a mentor, I say try it once and you will never regret it.”
Wagner thanked TeamMates for inviting her and spoke about her platform promoting giving blood.
“I tell everyone it is something they can all do, regardless of race or age,”she said.
Tietjan thanked mentors for their commitment and said she had many in life that helped her to develop her talents and press forward to be successful.
“My high school volleyball coach told me in the locker room, after we lost in the first round at state that even with the loss, we would be successful because we are good people,” she said.
“That is what I say to you, no matter what comes your way, you can succeed because all of you are good people,” she said.
She finished by performing the song Phantom of the Opera on the piano.
“This is the song that I played for my Miss America performance, and it is the only song I ever learned to play without music.”
She played flawlessly and received a round of applause.
Morales closed the program by presenting certificates of appreciation to each mentor. “Thank each of you for all you do.”
“I encourage others to decide to become a mentor,” she said.