In the Employee Spotlight we aim to recognize a Youth Service, Inc. employee making an impact in the communities we serve. Keevon Johnson is a supervisor for the Runaway and Homeless Youth program at Youth Service, Inc.’s Youth Emergency Service (YES).

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

I am from Bristol Township in Bucks County. I graduated from Harry S Truman high school, attended Bucks County Community for two years and obtained an AS in Criminal Justice. After that, I transferred to Chestnut Hill College and obtained a BS. I am currently attending Eastern University to obtain a MA in Counseling Psychology with a concentration in Trauma Studies.

I am married to Shaneeka Johnson and have 3 daughters; Nasyiah 20, Khylie 9, and Kadence 5.

I have over a decade of experience working with youth and have a strong commitment and dedication to youth in the community.

Q: How long have you been working at YSI and in what programs?

I’ve been with Youth Service, Inc. For about 5 years. I was originally hired as Supervisor at YES in ther Residential Program in 2015, transitioned to PT Shift Supervisor in 2018, and most recently moved to RHY Supervisor and Service Coordinator in February.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges faced by you working in the Safe Place and RHY programs?

Youth who are transitioning to adulthood need to have well developed self-esteem and self-efficacy skills that equip them to manage relationships in multiple contexts, as well as with friends and family members. Often, youth experiencing homelessness have lived through multiple traumas and disruptive events by the time they begin their transition to adulthood. Their life experiences can create additional problems resulting in mental illness, substance abuse problems, and a lack of confidence.

Another challenge is youth perception of counseling services. Youths’ perceptions of counselling services, and older adults can present a challenge to engagement. Youth may have been treated poorly in the past by clinicians so there may be anxiety around accessing therapy.

Youth knowledge of available services as well as parent/family involvement also present other challenges.

Q: What do you do to overcome these challenges?

At YES, we use a trauma-informed approach. This creates a safe, accepting, and respectful environment which is often needed to reveal thoughts or behaviors associated with trauma.

Trauma-Informed Care approach:

  • Realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery
  • Recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system
  • Responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices
  • Resists re-traumatization

We also try to provide education about the impact of adverse experiences and teaching healthy coping skills within a trauma-informed culture. This promotes positive health and behavioral health outcomes. Exploring traumatic experiences requires sensitivity, skills, and training. Staff also works to capture the youth’s interest and share information in a way that is tailored to the population we serve.

Q: What is one of your favorite success stories during your time at YSI?

A youth’s parent presented inadequate attention to child’s emotional health, and was assessed to have poor parenting skills. Prior to entry to YSI’s program, the youth showed aggressive behavior which lead to unhealthy parent/child conflict in home. The youth had previously had negative experiences with service systems. When they arrived at YES. I decided to start with building a relationship. I described our program goals and philosophy and asked about the youth’s goals, values, and needs. This served as a foundation of trust for further education.

Through YES’s Summer Enrichment/Wellness Camp, the youth was able to improve coping skills, manage emotions, connect with others, and find hope, purpose, and meaning.

After their time at YES, the youth transitioned to a community home placement (Community Home Placement: up to four youth live in each home with a Professional Parent and have a treatment plan with life skills support). During this time, the youth graduated from High School and was accepted into a college.

The youth wrote a letter to YES Staff sharing the impact YES had on her life and decision to further her education so that she can one day help youth recognize the impact of adverse life experiences.

She is currently a freshman in college and has a health relationship with their parent. Youth remains in contact with me and desires to visit YES on school break to share her story with current residents at YES.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working in this program and at YSI?

I enjoy assisting youth in moving towards and adjusting to a safe and appropriate living arrangement. Another aspect of the job I enjoy is helping the youth build resilience! This is a valuable way to respond to trauma. I enjoy teaching youth skills that assist them to improve coping; manage emotions; connect with others; and find hope, purpose, and meaning.