Son, mother both gain from Diakon Youth Services experience

Lancaster, Pennsylvania    Thursday, November 19, 2020

As a case manager for Pennsylvania, Sonia Lebron was accustomed to encounters with youths working their way through the juvenile justice system. In fact, she often helped them with issues such as employment and family relationships.

But when she found herself in a different role—as the mother of a young person facing a legal issue—she had to change roles. “It put me on the other side of the equation,” she says. “I had to stop being my job, stop being a case manager. I had to be a parent.”

Her son, considered a juvenile at the time, used poor judgment in a situation in which he was influenced by older peers. He was first assigned to a youth facility, but then transitioned to Diakon Youth Services’ Bridge Program in Lancaster County, which focuses on teaching self-discipline and accountability.

In particular, he was able to take advantage of the predisposition program, which helps adolescents learn accountability and coping skills to successfully take steps toward young adulthood.

The family’s challenge began with a car ride.

Lebron had given her son advice many parents offer to young people—don’t get in a car with a young driver, especially not a family member or someone you don’t know well, without letting me know first.

“It was a safety measure I initiated,” she explains. “But he got into a car without letting me know and got involved in something with older kids. He shared with me that he had that gut feeling it might not be a good idea, but didn’t want to look like a sissy. I know how everyone wants to be accepted in the group.”

Today, Lebron has high praise for the Bridge Program, especially for Manager Jabreel Michael. She says her son learned essential coping skills and problem-solving strategies.

“Jabreel gave words of wisdom and a lot of affirmation to the kids,” she says. “He taught that confrontation is not good, anger is not productive. And he helped me to see that I needed to let the program work. In fact, the program helped my son identify a lot of adjustments he needed to make. Every day I see him using the tools he learned.”

Her most heartfelt goal has been for her son to say: “My mom is dedicated to my change...”

Thanks to the Diakon program and a work-study opportunity at his high school, Lebron’s son became employed at a local university’s cafeteria. He earned a paycheck and learned what it means to be a dependable, dedicated employee.

It’s an experience he has valued highly, Lebron says, an experience that also prompted a desire to attend the school.

Lebron notes how much she, too, has gained.

“I learned how to establish a different relationship with my son,” Lebron says. “I thought I had a good relationship, and I did, but there’s always room for improvement. It’s so important to be attentive, to listen. I educated myself. After all of this, he started to open up and share more with me.”

Lebron also realized that, while she usually was the voice for her son in the past, she needed to allow him to speak for himself, encouraging him to be a leader, not a follower.

In the end, she says, her most heartfelt goal has been for her son to say: “My mom is dedicated to my change.”

You can support Diakon Youth Services in its efforts to change the lives of at-risk youths and their families: Participate in this year’s Extraordinary Give, a 24-hour giving event Nov. 20. Extraordinary Give is described as Lancaster's region-wide celebration of generosity.

Support Diakon Youth Services, which makes a difference in the lives of young people not only in Lancaster County but also throughout the region, by making an online donation of $10 or more Nov. 20 at the link below. You may also wish to share our social media posts, found on our Facebook pages for Diakon and the Diakon Wilderness Center.



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