This article can be found in the Winter 2019 edition of the Alumni Magazine.
October 15, 2019
Shackelford, a former USF football player who earned a Bachelor of Social Work in 2017, is the Allen County Safe Place coordinator for the YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne’s Youth Service Bureau. It’s his job to assist children and young people who seek help in a Safe Place location (identified by the Safe Place logo). The calls to the crisis phone can come any time, day or night. It takes a mentally strong yet caring personality
to deal with the physical and emotional issues facing those young people. They could be tackling any
number of traumatic issues. Shackelford embraces the challenge.
“We deal with kids up to age 24 who are in crisis, which is defined as anything somebody can’t handle,” Shackelford said. “Maybe they’re thinking about suicide or their parents are arguing and they don’t know what to do about that. Or they’re thinking of running away. We try to sway them from running away. Human trafficking is a growing problem, and Indiana is one of the major areas.”
I loved reading comic books; I loved all that stuff. With the Safe Place program, you’re kind of like a superhero. That call on the crisis phone—it’s kind of like the Bat-Signal. You go out and find these kids in trouble and try to figure out how to be their calm in the storm.
The weight of these young people’s situations can be heavy. Shackelford also serves as a case facilitator for the Status Offender Court Alternative Program (SOCAP), which tries to steer troubled youth off a possible criminal path. Shackelford’s incentive for pursing social work comes a bit from his background. He grew up in Hawaii and some of his family members were involved in gangs, he said. He was not unlike the young
people he tries to help.
Shackelford later moved to Fort Wayne and began playing football as a sophomore at South Side High School. Football led him to USF. He played on the 2016 NAIA national championship team.
“When I first looked into what I wanted to do at Saint Francis, I had no idea,” Shackelford said. “I just knew I had this burning urge to help somehow. I wanted to help someone.”
Shackelford explored psychology, secondary education, physical education and exercise science at USF before turning to social work after taking a social diversity class. That’s when he found his niche. His internship with the Youth Services Bureau confirmed his calling. After first working for SCAN after graduation, he returned to the Youth Service Bureau, where he has thrived. He often gives presentations in schools, laying out the options and pitfalls awaiting young people.
“Cameron does a great job connecting with young people at all the different levels we would want him to,” said Amy Dahm Just, Youth Service Bureau executive director. “God puts people in your life at the right time and God put Cameron in our lives. The Safe Place program is only three years old and to have him come along and help has been great.”
Shackelford maintains an even-keel demeanor, which is a necessity for handling the situations of the young people he deals with, whether it’s with Safe Place or SOCAP.
“The small victories are what counts,” he said. “You’re trying to build confidence in the kids, letting them recognize the small wins they have in their steps. You have to show them, ‘You’ve done this and this and it’s huge.’ You probably won’t see the gratification until you’re walking down the street and someone comes up you don’t recognize and says, ‘Hey remember me. You helped me out.’”
Shackelford is only 23, so he has a number of avenues yet to explore with his social work, which he says grew from the USF emphasis on Franciscan values.
“As of right now, I couldn’t tell you what success is or what that end goal is, but I’m in the process,” Shackelford said. “Being in the process and being there on the field helping kids firsthand, that makes me happy.”