Her name is Sidjourney and she wants to make big changes in her community
BY ROGER MOONEY
Let’s begin with the name: Sidjourney.
Cheryl Knight planned to name her daughter Sidney, but after the complications Cheryl endured during pregnancy that included seven months of bed rest, she realized she had been through quite a journey. The baby was born in April 2005 in a Brooklyn, New York hospital, and after a tweak, her name changed from Sidney to Sidjourney.
“It was a journey before she was born, and it’s been a journey ever since,” Cheryl said.
There were medical issues for both mother and daughter, a move to Florida, and an education choice scholarship that enabled Sidjourney to attend a faith-based private school. She graduated in May at the top of her class with a college education paid for thanks to her first-place finish in the 2022 Florida’s Black History Month student essay contest.
Sidjourney plans to attend law school and become the state attorney for the district that serves the small, Central Florida town of Mascotte, where she lives with her mom.
That goal developed over her years at Praise Temple Christian Academy, the pre-K to 12 private school she entered as a fourth-grader. Sidjourney attended the school on a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, which is made possible by corporate donations to Step Up For Students.
“I would say the scholarship has been a godsend,” Sidjourney said. “I can honestly say if I didn't go there, I wouldn't be where I am today, with all the opportunities that I have. It gave me an opportunity to be in such a great learning environment.”
She will continue her education this fall at Lake Sumter State College (LSSC) in Sumterville. Sidjourney chose LSSC because it is close to home, and she can continue to care for her mother, who has multiple sclerosis.
Cheryl has battled the disease since before Sidjourney was born. A nurse, Cheryl often is unable to work for long periods.
“And if I don’t work, I don’t get paid,” Cheryl said. “So, the (FTC) scholarship was a blessing. It came in so handy. She was able to continue school while I go through whatever I'm going through at the time with the MS.”
Sidjourney will earn an associate degree at LSSC then pursue her bachelor’s degree at a four-year college. She received a four-year Florida College Plan scholarship, provided by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation, for placing first in the statewide essay contest, where she wrote about Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune and her contributions to the Black community.
“I wrote about someone who I knew personally affected my education. Her work was specifically rooted in the state of Florida and all around us we see the change that she enacted,” Sidjourney said.
Enacting change is why Sidjourney wants to become a state attorney.
“My angle is to help people,” Sidjourney said. “A lot of people like to talk about changing the system, but you can never really change the system from the outside.”
As a state attorney, Sidjourney feels she can work with law enforcement agencies and lawmakers to create early intervention programs for first-time offenders with the goal of lowering crime rates.
“It’s about us working together,” she said.
Anna Langley was Sidjourney’s high school teacher and volleyball coach at Praise Temple. The two often talked about Sidjourney’s plans for law school and beyond.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if she becomes a district attorney,” Langley said. “Whatever she sets her mind to she achieves. She’s that type of person.”
Sidjourney will join the Praise Temple staff this year, serving as a teacher’s assistant and the junior varsity volleyball coach.
“We’re looking forward to having her back,” Langley said. “She’s such a leader.”
Sidjourney calls her mom “cool,” and said she shares every detail of her life with her. Sidjourney cooks, cleans the house and takes care of her mother on the days when Cheryl’s MS has confined her to her bed.
“It just makes me want to work harder and prove that I can be a daughter that she believes I can be,” Sidjourney said. “My mom is a single parent, so it's always just me and my mom, and she's been there every step of the way. I see the days when it's hard for her, when she can't do anything. She can barely walk or speak or eat and I have to be the best I can be for her.”
Cheryl liked the name Sidney because she felt it was a powerful name, one that would get her daughter noticed. She topped that with Sidjourney. Yet, little did Cheryl know when she named her daughter that Sidjourney would have a journey of her own.
Sidjourney was born with Pyloric Stenosis and urine reflux. She was often hospitalized. Both are now under control, and Sidjourney has not been hospitalized since moving to Florida in 2012.
“My mom had to see her child sick in a hospital bed, but when I was younger, I never really saw it that way. OK, I knew I was in pain, but it was more of a journey, like a learning experience,” Sidjourney said. “Taking all these opportunities that I had during the journey wasn't a trial for me, but more or less just my journey to becoming who I am now.”
Sidjourney has searched the internet for someone else with her name. She’s punched it into Google and sought out other Sidjourneys on Facebook. Aside from stories about Sidjourney winning the essay contest or news of Praise Temple volleyball matches, the results are always the same.
“No one else ever pops up,” Sidjourney said. “It’s just me.”
Roger Mooney, manager, communications, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.