Parks in the Bronx and across the boroughs have been possessing more than concrete walls for wallball players, they have provided a safe haven for players like 16-year-old Valerie Vargas. Valerie’s conflicts and courage off the court has proven why she is deemed as Wallball’s Player of the Week.
When Valerie was three-years-old, her father was given a job opportunity and moved from the Bronx to Harrison, NY with her mom, her brother and her two sisters. There is where Valerie’s parents would raise her and her siblings, sending them to school to obtain a better education.
It was when Valerie was in seventh grade that disputes began to arise in a place that is suppose to create an atmosphere which exemplifies opportunity and togetherness. Valerie fell victim to bullying in her the classroom and hallways of her school and has been victimized by her peers for years. “I actually didn’t know how to handle the bullying. It got to the point where I didn’t want to attend school or I would come home crying everyday.”
Valerie isolated herself from the people she loved, but couldn’t turn her back from her first love, wallball. She looked towards the wallball courts in her hometown of the Bronx to find strength and comfort. “When I hit the handball hard I would release the anger I had, it was a way to help me calm down.”
Day after day Valerie found her foundation of hope and perseverance in front of 40 feet by 20 feet concrete walls. “Handball was a big part of my life, it let me feel comfortable when I played and the people I played around became like a family so I had a place to run to when I was upset from school.”
Besides wall ball, Valerie has a passion for dance and sports which continue to inspire her to become a better person. She encourages young children and adults, who are victims of bullying, to be involved in extracurricular activities such as wallball, dance and other sports. With inspiration from her older sister Cristina, Valerie aspires become an emergency medical technician.
When asked if she had a message for those who have been a victim to bullying, she gives a message of hope and fortitude to those who have lived her struggle:
“I know it gets tough but you can’t let it break you. I thought it was the end but I found a way to just continue because I know the person I am and I don’t want anyone effecting my future. I have a lot to live for and I’m sure you do too so you cannot let anyone stand in your future. Don’t isolate the people that you love most, keep your head high. You may lose friends but there is a purpose for it.”