Growing up in Mount Vernon can be a challenge, with close to 70,000 people and not all with good intentions; it is easy for our youth to get mixed in with the wrong crowd. Unfortunately, in his early years Sidney Weston loved being part of the wrong crowd, staying out late and getting into fights. Surrounded by violence, drugs, and gangs, Sidney Weston chose to embrace his surroundings rather than ignore them. Fast-forward 6 years and get to know Sidney Weston and you would never guess the trouble he used to be a part of.
“The hardest part of growing up in Mount Vernon for me was trying to stay away from the people who would always do the wrong things,” Sidney said. Those wrong things included fighting, drug dealing and gang banging. By the age of 12 Sidney was in a gang and headed down a dead end street toward incarceration or worse. After several instances of fighting, Sidney found himself in front of a judge, which resulted in being sent to The Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., a foster home that helps troubled youth.
After an encouraging freshman year at Children’s Village where he not only stayed out of trouble but also maintained excellent grades, Sidney was sent back home to Mount Vernon. This is where he admittedly made the most important decision of his life. At the fork in the road Sidney could have easily reunited with his old friends and familiar faces at Mount Vernon High School but instead he reached out to Darlos James for a different direction. James was Sidney’s football coach with the Mount Vernon Razorbacks and his son was teammates with Sidney for years. James also participated as the assistant coach with Iona Prep varsity football team. James and others helped convince Sidney that the structure and family atmosphere of Iona Prep could help him continue on the right path. The move seemed logical for both Sidney and James; the next step was making it happen. After Sidney went to visit the school and its college-like campus, he realized that this is where he wanted to be.
“My Razorbacks’ head coach Darlos James steered me in the direction to Iona Prep,” Sidney said.
A year removed from trouble and time to consider what he wanted to do with his life, Sidney decided to pursue the transfer to Iona Prep. After many phone calls and meetings with the coaches and school officials, Sidney was accepted to Iona Prep and on his way to his new life.
The transition wasn’t seamless but with his new attitude and the help of the football coaches especially coach James, Sidney was excited and ready for this new opportunity. When asked what the toughest transition was from the streets to Iona Prep he responded, “The strict rules and regulations. I had to learn how to treat everyone with the up most respect” also adding “having to wear button down shirts and ties was hard but I realized this is something I want to do.”
As a sophomore Sidney played varsity football replacing a senior for the starting running back position. It did not take long for Sidney to make an impact. In his sophomore year Iona prep went 12-0 and won their league championship, a moment Sidney considers his proudest as an athlete. Sidney regrets many of his past transgressions, but he also feels those experiences contributed to his physical and mental toughness on the football field. His coaches and opposing defensive players would have to agree. He was named a captain his senior year and won offensive player of the year for the CHSFL in the 2010 season.
Sidney Weston has come a long way and has no plans of stopping now. “I want to stay positive, work hard and continue playing football. In 10 years I see myself having a family and playing football at the professional level, if that doesn’t work out I will keep pursuing a career in architecture or sports medicine,” Sidney said. He currently is finishing up his senior year at Iona Prep, training for football and looking forward to making a decision on what college he will attend in the fall.
When asked what advice he would give to kids that grow up in tough environments he said, “I’d tell them to respect their parents, don’t hang out with the wrong people, be your own person and set goals for the future because in the end anything is possible!”