By Cindy Adams


Deishon Christianson grew up in Boston. He and his mom relocated to Southwest Virginia when he was a young teenager. The change was difficult for Deishon, but it was exactly what his mom wanted for him; something different than the gang culture that took the life of Deishon’s 24-year-old brother, Isaiah.

"I didn’t want Deishon to choose the same path as his brother," Melody Christianson said. "I wanted him to have the foundation for a better life."

Deishon responded to the change in his surroundings with a lot of anxiety. He did not know whom he could trust, and that manifested itself in defiant behavior, particularly in the classroom. He wasn’t interested in doing his work or following the expectations of strangers, so there were emotional outbursts.

His mom, however, takes his education very seriously. She describes herself as strict, but fair.

"It’s hard when your child is being rebellious and disrespectful," she said. "I don’t go for that, so I sat him down and said, 'Deishon, listen up. You’re going to school, you’re going to act right, and you’re going to come home. Do I make myself clear?'"

The same went for his behavior in her home, and she advised him of the consequences.

Deishon is quiet. He does not talk to people he doesn’t know, and it takes a while for him to trust. He is not aggressive, but he won’t hesitate to stand up for himself. He is funny and, once he knows and trusts someone, he likes to joke.

"When Deishon first started at Roanoke Minnick, he had few personal or academic goals for himself," said Harleigh Warren, one of Deishon’s teachers. "One of his greatest improvements is the relationships he built, especially with school staff. The smaller class size allowed us to talk about goal setting. He is now working on getting his learner’s permit and has applied for some jobs. He has a great future ahead of him."

Deishon’s mom has seen tremendous growth in her son, particularly in his confidence, coping and independence.

"He has come a long way in how he carries himself," she said. "When he was younger and immature, it was tough. But the teachers worked with him in the classroom, and I stayed on him at home. We were all on the same page. He learned that his education was not a joke."

Deishon’s graduation was an achievement for everyone.

"If he were here, his big brother would be so proud of him and he would tell him in no uncertain terms," his mom said. "I tell Deishon all the time, 'You can do whatever you put your mind to. You’re very smart, you have a great sense of humor, and you have a big heart.'"

Maybe one of Deishon’s greatest accomplishments is recognizing who he really is. And he’s a good guy.