New Superhero Staff Help Runaway and Homeless Youth
Teens at YSI’s emergency shelter (https://ysiphilly.org/programs/youth-emergency-service/) already count on two new staff to give them the extra support that homeless and runaway youth in Philadelphia need. Tim Massaquoi is the shelter’s Director, and Luke McKetta, stepped into the position of Supervisor. After their first month, they talked about their experiences working with youth, commitment to helping teens find their way, and why they’re fans of Superman.
I kept asking myself “how did a professional football player and a youth program director end up at the same place?” Well, I found an answer. While originally from different parts of Pennsylvania, Tim and Luke had life experiences that eventually brought both of them to Youth Emergency Service, albeit for different reasons. They understand how difficult being a teenager can be, let alone being a teenager faced with the constant worry of needing to find a safe place to sleep each night. Luke who grew up in, as he describes, “the backwoods of Western Pennsylvania”, found that there really wasn’t visible support for youth going through a tough time. During his senior year of high school he realized that social work was a way to channel his passion for helping others and make sure that teens and adults alike have the support they need. As a program manager at Project HOME, a director of youth programs at community membership agencies, and a program supervisor for an in-home service provider, Luke has spent a majority of his professional career making a difference in the lives of others. With his passion for youth work he is eager to help teens at YSI’s shelter navigate the difficult times in their lives. Tim, on the other hand, found something of the opposite.
While Luke saw a lack of this type of social work and leadership in the community, Tim remembers always having strong, positive adult role models as a teenager. Luke experienced an empty hole in his community and wanted to do something about it. Tim understood the importance of his high school, college, and NFL football coaches and realized how vital it is to give back. Tim has been striving to be an encouraging role model ever since. With a Masters of Psychology in clinical counseling from Eastern University, Tim is enthusiastic about working with teens on both a mental and a behavioral level. After retiring from the NFL, Tim has worked with youth in numerous capacities. He has been a case worker at the Achieving Independence Center, a case worker at Communities In Schools, and most recently was a College Access Counselor at the University of Pennsylvania. Tim is fully aware that he was lucky to have adult support when he was younger, and now wants to pay it forward as a role model and mentor for youth at YSI’s shelter.
The merits of Superman: When I asked both Tim and Luke which well-known superhero they’d choose to be for a day, both quickly responded: “Superman!” Why? “He doesn’t get hung up on situations that go poorly, and doesn’t revel in his victories”, said Tim. “He comes in, assesses the situation, does what he can, and keeps it moving.” Luke added that, “Superman has all the necessary qualities of a good leader and knows how to efficiently get stuff done. Out of all the superheroes, he is the best equipped to help others, save lives, and fix things.” And, of course, there’s the added bonus of being able to fly.
Their skills, rich experiences, and leadership are already making a real difference for teens.