Justin Seier’s TeamMates journey started in Wood River nearly 12 years ago.
“My sister was in TeamMates and suggested I be a part of it,” he said. Justin joined TeamMates as a mentee when he was in sixth grade.
“My mom was in and out of the hospital when I was in middle school,” he explained. “I thought it would be a good idea to have someone to talk to.”
His mentor was the school guidance counselor.
“She took me under her wing and me feel welcome to the program,” he said. “It was a good match.”
Justin said he spent most of his free time outside of school visiting his mom in the hospital, so he and his mentor worked on homework during their meetings.
“We’d do homework first so I wouldn’t feel stressed to get it done while I was visiting my mom,” he said. “My mentor always asked what I wanted to do.”
After a couple years, his first mentor accepted another job outside of the district. That next year, he was matched with her replacement. They met until he graduated from high school.
Justin said both of his mentors have played a huge role in his life.
“I’m a lot more outgoing,” he said. “I would clam up and wouldn’t open up to anybody, but when I got to meet with my mentors I trusted them.”
Now, Justin is back in Wood River serving in two roles— an educator and a mentor.
“My mentors are a big reason I’m in the school system,” he said. “I need to pay my experience forward and put myself out there for a kid who needs that one person to talk to.”
Justin and his mentee have been matched for about a year and a half. He said he expects a lot more fun conversations in fifth grade.
“Every day since school started he asks when we’re going to meet,” Justin laughed. “He’s at that fun age where next year he gets to make that transition into middle school.”
As a Paraprofessional, Justin works with students during the day, but meets with his mentee once a week right after school. He said his first meeting was like déjà vu.
“He was a lot like me, he was very nervous,” Justin said. “To make a connection, I brought Pokemon cards, and he was so excited that I took an interest in something he was passionate about.”
Justin’s impact as a mentor stretches further through the Wood River program. He also serves as treasurer on the chapter’s board. He said he feels his dedication to the program and to the school is a big part of who he is.
“I’ve been trying to work in our community to encourage people to become mentors,” he said. “That one hour a week can be the biggest impact we can have on a kid.”
Justin said he’s working to become a special education teacher. As an educator, a board member, a former mentee, and a mentor, he can call Wood River Rural Schools home.
“A lot of the teachers I had in school are still there,” he explained. “They’re recognizing that I’m making a difference— I love my job.”