If there’s one thing Leon Allen has tried to learn over the past six years, it’s to hold an appreciation for the opportunities he’s been given, despite the challenges he’s faced. As a 2020 high school and children’s home graduate, Leon feels not only grateful for what he’s accomplished, but has gone above and beyond to make the most of his future.
Leon first came to the children’s home in the 7th grade. He was raised in Darby, Pennsylvania, by his mom, who worked long hours to make ends meet. She thought it was best for him to be in a more stable environment, like the children’s home.
“My mom knew that I would get in trouble at school,” Leon explained. “Where I was living, I would always be on the streets outside. I would always be running around doing stupid things … maybe never really doing anything to get in trouble, but I’d always be on the streets.”
What Leon found at the children’s home was completely different than what he was used to, but it helped him tremendously. Part of the change he experienced after joining the children’s home “family” was the people and opportunities that helped him grow.
“When I came to Masonic, it kind of turned things around,” Leon said. “It made me think twice about things.”
As he moved into high school, Leon said that it was an important part of his growth to get a job. When he turned 16, he got his first job as a dishwasher on the Masonic Village campus. Comparing this to where he lived before, he was grateful for the chance to find a steady, well-paying job, which helped him save for a car and his future education.
“I don’t think I would have gotten a job if I was still living where I was. I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities,” he recalled.
But opportunities for growth weren’t just offered to Leon; he had opportunities to help others grow during his senior year internship at a local elementary school. As part of his internship, Leon assisted the students with their homework and had fun with them during an unstructured free time that was built into their daily schedule.
“Every day, [the kids] would come and surround me,” Leon said. “I just enjoyed the kids. There was this one kid who never finished his homework, but I could always get him to do it.”
At the children’s home, Leon also had plenty of time for his own adventures, many of them sports related. One of which was playing football at Elizabethtown Area High School during his freshman, junior and senior years. He was a running back during his last season on the team.
He also enjoyed playing basketball with his housemates and would often stay outside all day playing basketball at Weller Cottage on the weekends.
However, his time at the children’s home wasn’t just playing outside with friends; it was also learning to understand—and helping others understand—the opportunities that living at the children’s home gave him. He always tried to instill an appreciation for a second chance at life into the younger kids.
“What the Masons and other donors give is a blessing because not everybody has the opportunity I have, and I’m so grateful for this,” he said.
Leon says one of the greatest things he’s looking forward to is being able to attend college debt-free through the scholarships made available to him by the Masons and other donors who have seen value in him all along.
While Leon is saying goodbye to what he knows at the children’s home, his memories will last a lifetime, and he’s excited for what awaits him in the future. Keeping with his life’s mantra of helping others grow, Leon plans on majoring in physical education at East Stroudsburg University. He’s excited to meet new people on the sports teams at the university, and plans on joining the football team.
With any new experience comes uncertainty, but Leon tries to stay optimistic:
“I’m scared of not knowing where I’ll be in five years or what I’ll be doing,” he says, “but I’m excited to meet new people and make college memories.”
Regardless of where Leon’s path takes him, he has confidence knowing he has loved ones at the children’s home watching over him.