BTS Philly Podcast: Joey McKenna on Mentoring BTS Student Athletes

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Joey’s Inspiration

In this episode of the Beat the Streets Philadelphia Podcast, we get the tremendous opportunity to speak with Joey McKenna, an Olympic level wrestler who serves as a mentor to Beat the Streets student athletes. 

Joey competes at the international level where represents the Pennsylvania Regional Training Center. In college, Joey wrestled for Stanford and Ohio State where he was a three-time NCAA All-American and two-time Big Ten champion. At the senior level, Joey boasts a U.S. Open title and he recently finished as runner-up at the Olympic Trials.

Off the mats, Joey serves as a mentor and role model for many youth at Beat the Streets. “It’s not something that we have to do, but something that we get to do,” says McKenna. “And we can really help shape and change lives. So getting involved in that is super important.”

According to McKenna, the student athletes are not the only ones who benefit from the mentorship program. “They can be role models for me,” he says. “In terms of the way they handle their adversity and the way they’re pushing to become better. It’s contagious.”

He continues to be inspired by drive and discipline of the student athletes. “The amount of adversity that they have to go through to even show up to practice is incredible.”

According to Joey, wrestling can provide a toolkit for facing that adversity and growing as a person. “Through those experiences we become stronger,” Joey says. “And wrestling has taught me that.”

“Wrestling is helping equip them with the intangibles to continue to face adversity,” Joey says. “At the end of the day, you have to face those things head on to grow and become who you want to be.”

Having the Philadelphia wrestling community behind him means a lot to McKenna. He recently wore a Beat the Streets Philadelphia t-shirt at a major wrestling event and was proud of the response he received from the community.

“I received a text after about how all the Beat the Streets kids were so hyped up. That’s encouraging. That’s inspiring to me. It makes it easier to go out there and do what I do.”

“I’m out there wearing a Beat the Streets shirt thinking I’m doing a good thing and in representing this organization, but I know that every single kid is right behind me and supporting me wholeheartedly. And it means a lot to see that.”


This episode is brought to you by Blue Chip Athletic who has helped provide athletic apparel for so many of our student athletes. Thank you BlueChip for your support!

If you are inspired by these stories and would like to help Beat the Streets provide opportunities for more student-athletes, please consider supporting our mission by visiting our donation page or by sharing these stories with friends and family.

BTS Philly Podcast: Ousmane Diarra

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Ousmane’s Story

In this episode of the podcast, we speak with Ousmane Diarra, a Beat the Streets graduate and mentor. Ousmane has such an inspirational journey, starting when he first arrived in the United States at age seven from Mali. Even though he didn’t even speak English at first, Ousmane was never one to shy away from hard work, so he spent the whole summer teaching himself.

After working his way to becoming the valedictorian of his middle school, Ousmane attended Central High School, one of the top schools in Philadelphia. During his sophomore year, Ousmane discovered the sport of wrestling. “I was one of those people who got committed and dedicated really fast,” Ousmane explains. “That’s all I could think about.”

Ousmane explains how wrestling taught him the value of hard work. “When you put in a certain amount of effort, it shows, because you’re the only person wrestling. If you’re wrestling someone and you lose, and then you put in more effort next year and you win, that’s such a rewarding feeling. And that reinforces the value of hard work.”

Not just hard work though, Ousmane says, wrestling also teaches accountability “because only you know how hard you’re pushing yourself. And every day at practice when you have that last to give and you don’t give it, you just know you could have done more. And it’s all reflective of how you perform in matches.”

Ousmane talks about the importance of the Beat the Streets community in his life. “Beat the Streets is like a second family to me at this point,” he says. He became more involved during his junior year when he frequently went to the mentoring center for homework help and test prep. Through Beat the Streets, Ousmane met University of Pennsylvania medical student Eric Friedman who became an important mentor to him. Eric helped him prepare for the ACTs and inspired him through the college application process.

Now Ousmane is working towards a Master’s Degree in Public Health at Drexel University. He is also helping to conduct cutting edge research in vaccines with Dr. Harvey Rubin, the founder of Energize the Chain.

He dedicates so much of his time to helping out and mentoring younger student athletes at Beat the Streets. Ousmane explains why mentoring is so important. “I love seeing growth from the kids. I just love seeing when they first come into the mentoring center how they’re doing with school and how their attitudes change with school. To now when they’re regulars at the mentoring center. They’re the new leaders. They’re leading kids to do the same thing they’ve been doing in the past. I just love seeing whenever kids grow personally and they grow academically. That’s a really big thing for me.”

If you are inspired by these stories and would like to help Beat the Streets provide opportunities for more student-athletes, please consider supporting our mission by visiting our donation page or by sharing these stories with friends and family.

BTS Philly Podcast: Lakita Williams


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Lakita’s Story

In this episode of the podcast, we speak with Lakita Williams, a Beat the Streets graduate and coach. Lakita began wrestling as a junior at Mastery Charter School Shoemaker Campus after several of her friends joined the team. “It wasn’t meant to be serious,” she explained, “but it ended up being really serious.”

According to Lakita, the wrestling room was a safe space where “regardless of what race you are, what gender you are, what your sexual orientation is, you can find a space where people are going to uplift you, push you towards your goals, and motivate you to be the best version of yourself.”

Lakita has spent her whole life battling what she calls perceived fragility. “I was born three months early, so I was really tiny and I had some health complications,” she explained. So her parents never let her play football with her brothers and many people treated her like she was fragile. But Lakita pushed back and began committing herself fully to the sport of wrestling.

As a black female, Lakita spent her life overcoming barriers, which served her well on the mat. “I didn’t know that’s what would make me such a good wrestler,” she says. “Those innate abilities to get control over whatever obstacle comes my way, whether it be racism, sexism, or an opponent who is top seed.”

While her willpower and toughness helped her thrive on the mat, it was the community that kept Lakita coming back every day. Beat the Streets gave Lakita “that feeling like you finally belong somewhere.”

Lakita is grateful for those mentors who inspired her along the way and talks about the motivation provided by “seeing someone who has been through what you’ve been through defy the odds and surmount whatever challenges may be in the way.”

Now Lakita is able to give back to the younger generation through her coaching and mentoring. Being a role model means a lot to Lakita. “Not everybody has that,” she says. “I didn’t always have someone who looked like me. And I think that’s really important.”

Lakita doesn’t just talk about it, she leads by example. When she tells young girls they should try wrestling, they listen to her. “I did it,” she tells them. “I come from the same neighborhood you come from, I grew up down the street from here.”

We are so grateful to have Lakita as a part of the Beat the Streets family and for sharing her story with us!


Brought to you by:

Yes! Athletics

A special thanks to Yes! Athletics for supporting this episode and for helping us share inspirational stories from the Beat the Streets community.

If you are inspired by these stories and would like to help Beat the Streets provide opportunities for more student-athletes, please consider supporting our mission by visiting our donation page or by sharing these stories with friends and family.

BTS Philly Podcast: James Mangan, Executive Director


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“What gets me out of bed every day is knowing that we’re putting smiles on kids’ faces.”


In this episode of the podcast, we speak with James Mangan, the Executive Director of Beat the Streets Philadelphia.

James comes with a depth of experience from all levels of the organization. He grew up in Philadelphia and began wrestling at 10 years old. “The first day I showed up, I realized that there was something different about this, there was something unique, there was something special.”

James looks back on his early years on the mats and the mentors who helped him achieve his goals. “They had this unique ability to teach lessons on a wrestling mat. You didn’t realize you were learning life lessons as a little kid.”

James never forgot about those mentors who helped him, so when he graduated, he dedicated himself to giving back to the next generation of Philadelphia wrestlers by becoming a volunteer coach.

Mentors don’t just help you on the wrestling mat though, James explains. “It’s one thing to learn how to wrestle and be tough and be resilient. It’s another thing to leverage that to achieve your goals off the mat. Mentorship is the only way we can possibly do that with an individual focus.”

James gives much credit to the partnerships Beat the Streets has with the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University wrestling teams as well as the Olympic level Regional Training Center, which provide a pipeline of mentors to work with the student-athletes. 

One of the things that James is most proud of is that Beat the Streets is able to unite the youth from so many diverse parts of Philadelphia. “Even though now we have 29 different programs,” James says, “it still feels like one team, one community.”

This sense of community doesn’t stop at the local level either. The support from Beat the Streets National is invaluable, according to James. “Having that ability to reach out to a peer in Los Angeles or Chicago or New York City, and partner with them on initiatives to better serve our youth is extremely incredible.”

How does James define success at Beat the Streets Philadelphia?

“If I leave a practice and the kid is smiling, I know we did right. If I leave a mentoring session and the kid is smiling, I know we did right. It may sound corny, but what gets me out of bed every day is knowing that we’re putting smiles on kids’ faces and making a difference in their lives.”


A special thanks to Gear2Compete for supporting this episode and for helping us share inspirational stories from the Beat the Streets community.

If you are inspired by these stories and would like to help Beat the Streets provide opportunities for more student-athletes, please consider supporting our mission by visiting our donation page or by sharing these stories with friends and family.

BTSP Podcast Episode 1: Edwin Morales, “Beat the Streets is like a safe haven.”

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Edwin’s Story

In this episode of the podcast, Beat the Streets alumnus Edwin Morales shares his passion for wrestling, community, and hard work. Edwin is so full of enthusiasm that he uplifts those around him and inspires them to become better people.

Edwin currently wrestles at Bridgewater State University and is studying Criminal Justice. He is a captain on the team and was named a Division III All-American this year. He never stops to rest and he continues to work towards his goal of becoming a national champion.

Edwin discovered wrestling through his brother in 9th grade and his life was never the same. “My grades weren’t that good,” he says. “But then I got involved with Beat the Streets and I fell in love with wrestling. And if I wanted to keep wrestling, I had to keep good grades.” Beat the Streets provided Edwin with a strong community and mentors who supported his continued growth.

He was always at the Beat the Streets mentoring center, even after a long day of school and practice, because the community was so important to him. “It was a second home,” Edwin explains, “a second family that I was able to create with Beat the Streets.” Edwin explains that even after everyone finished their schoolwork, they would stick around to play games with each other. “Beat the Streets is like a safe haven.”

Edwin credits wrestling with keeping him motivated when he had hard times. “Wrestling is like life: there are some points in life where you’re going to feel low, but then there are going to be points when you’re going to feel great. There’s times when I felt unstoppable, but got beat up a little bit. But then I kept going. I kept pushing. And then I am where I am today.”

He believes so strongly in the mission, that he dedicates much of his time to mentoring younger student athletes. “It’s so much joy seeing these kids the first day they come in and then seeing them the last day, when they’re going to college and they’re going to start life. And they’re full young adults ready to tackle anything that’s given to them because they put in the work and they want to change.”

We know that he will continue to accomplish great things both on and off the mat while inspiring those around him.


A special thanks to O3 World for supporting this episode and for helping us share inspirational stories from the Beat the Streets community.

If you are inspired by Edwin’s journey and would like to help young student-athletes like him, please consider supporting our mission by visiting our donation page or by sharing these stories with friends and family.