Bonilla’s Summer Filled with Volleyball

May 28, 2011, 5:16 p.m. (ET)

Bill Kauffman
Associate Director, Communications
Phone: 719-228-6800

DALLAS (May 28, 2011) – To say Jennifer Bonilla (Reseda, Calif.) will have a busy summer may be an understatement. To say volleyball will be a part of her summer would also be an understatement.

Bonilla has been a part of the USA Volleyball High Performance pipeline since 2004 at the age of 12. Seven years after making her first HP Select team, she continues to enjoy the sport and will don the USA uniform in two separate competitions starting with the USA Volleyball Open National Championships that had its first serve on May 28 and runs through June 4 at the Dallas Convention Center.

Bonilla, a libero who recently finished her freshman academic year at the University of Illinois, is one of 36 players in this year’s U.S. Women’s National A2 Program. The program consisted of five days of training at University of Texas-Dallas in preparation for the Open Division bracket of the USAV Open National Championships. She has been placed on the USA Blue roster for the event that has 534 overall teams competing for 26 total titles.

“It has been a lot of fun,” Bonilla said of the five days of training. “I have had the chance to meet a lot of new people.”

However, the fun and games were mixed in with training and repetitions in preparation for the international-style Open Division competition this week.

“At the beginning, the coaches told us that we would be doing a lot of repetitions as part of training,” Bonilla said. “Of course, there are always some small things to learn along the way and reinforce.”

Even during the week of training in Dallas, Bonilla’s calendar of events spoke volumes of the kind of person she is – one of caring and giving. On Friday afternoon, she and her teammates gathered together and visited a local nursing home. The diversion from training provided an uplifting experience for the three dozen players and staff.

“It was really nice to visit the individuals at the nursing home,” Bonilla said. “To see them happy with smiles on their faces was great to see. At the same time, it was good to get away from training for a little while and something nice for people.”

A day earlier at the USA Volleyball’s Boyce Awards and Recognition Banquet held in Dallas as part of its Annual Meetings, Bonilla shared her childhood story of growing up in Los Angeles’ inner city and escaping the troubles associated with area gangs. The daughter of a single mother from El Salvador, she attended St. Thomas the Apostle and immediately took a liking to her kindergarten teacher, Gustavo Beltran. Even after moving up the educational later, Bonilla would often go back to see Beltran, who got her started in volleyball at a very young age as he coached the middle school volleyball program at St. Thomas the Apostle.

As the years went by, Beltran developed into the father that she did not have in her life and Bonilla essentially became part of his family that included his wife Virna and son. In many regards, Bonilla’s story is similar to the based-on-reality Hollywood motion picture “Blind Side” of a National Football League player, but with a volleyball angle. (For a more detailed story on Bonilla’s childhood, click here.)

During the Boyce Banquet, Bonilla felt at home with the family atmosphere displayed among the 170 attendees.

“The whole volleyball community is unique and special,” Bonilla said. “It was amazing to see the friendships and relationships of all the coaches and volleyball leaders in attendance.”

While this may be her first USA Volleyball Open National Championships, she does not want it to be her last one.

“I want to continue to be part of (the U.S. Women’s National A2 program) through my senior year,” said Bonilla of wanting to be part of the program for as long as she is eligible. “You get to meet so many nice people and the whole experience of the Championships is amazing.”

After the USA Volleyball Open National Championships and the U.S. Women’s National A2 Program, Bonilla will get to have an added experience within the HP pipeline. She will be on the U.S. roster for the 2011 FIVB Women’s Junior World Championship that takes place July 21-30 in Peru. Two years ago, Bonilla hit the major international stage at the 2009 FIVB Girls’ Youth World Championship in Thailand.

In between training and competitions with the USA Volleyball High Performance pipeline, Bonilla have three other primary focuses back home in Reseda – summer school, working summer camps and more volleyball. She departed the University of Illinois on May 13 after completing her freshman academic year, and immediately started summer school in the morning and giving back to her former St. Thomas the Apostle school by working afternoon summer camps with the young children.

“All I am doing this summer is volleyball, work and training,” Bonilla said. “Along the way, I will get some reps with my dad. I am excited for this summer. I am getting to do all the things I love.”