Written by: Hannah Miller
Safe, caring adults want to make a difference, but they don’t always know if they have time to do so. Dr. Deepak Gangahar, a retired surgeon and now-entrepreneur, proves it’s possible to make a positive impact for just 30 minutes a week.
Mark Bope, a junior at Millard North High School in Omaha, was matched as a 4th-grader with Dr. Gangahar when he joined the TeamMates Mentoring Program. The two met once a week at Mark’s school to play board games and talk about shared interests.
“This has been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life, meeting up with him every week at school and talking about random stuff, really,” Mark said. “That has been life-changing for me.”
Mark’s interest in becoming a mechanical engineer connects well to Gangahar’s experience in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery¸ said his mother Deborah Gleich-Bope, a former school counselor and administrator.
“I think both Doc and Mark are inquisitive; they’re always asking questions about the world,” she said. “Doc’s focus is the human body and Mark’s focus is machines.”
Dr. Gangahar currently serves as chairman of TeamMates’ Board of Directors. During the 2021-2022 school year, 92% of TeamMates mentors reported leaving their mentoring time in a better mood than when they arrived. This simple act of service once week, can provide higher levels of hope and wellbeing for the mentor and the mentee. Over the last five years, 85% of TeamMates mentees have reported feeling more hopeful because of their mentor.
“Mentoring should not carry a stigma. It’s not for only troubled kids, but for all kids,” he said. “Whatever they have in mind—good, bad or ugly—we are there to listen and share our experience,” Dr. Gangahar said.
Mark said he feels Dr. Gangahar enjoys the company and conversation as much as he does.
“They have a great relationship,” Gleich-Bope said. Her original hope when enrolling her sons in TeamMates was for Mark and his brother, 2021 Millard North graduate Nate, to make a positive connection.
“I thought it would be good for my boys. We are not from Nebraska, we have no family here whatsoever, and my husband travels a lot for his job. It was always just me and the boys; there wasn’t really anyone else,” she said. “I thought getting them a mentor would be a way to get them another caring adult in their life who they could talk to and get advice from, who’s outside of just me and their dad.”
Mark said he likes that Dr. Gangahar is not an authority figure or a peer.
“There’s no fear in telling your mentor anything…the mentor is just there,” he said, adding that he especially appreciated his mentor’s support during one stressful period.
Dr. Gangahar said his goal for Mark is simple: “Hopefully I will watch them blossom, succeed, and be happy.”
TeamMates serves students from 3rd grade through their post-secondary education. Currently, more than 180 school districts across Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Wyoming, and South Dakota have TeamMates mentors visiting students once a week. In addition, students at more than 40 post-secondary institutions meet with a TeamMates+ mentor once a month.
To become a TeamMates mentor, go to TeamMates.org to apply today.