Westminster Christian senior Sylvia Hernandez is making life more fun for children in Bimini through her foundation Bimini Buds. While vacationing on the island, she noticed the kids needed something to do.
“We would go to town and you’d see the kids sitting around doing nothing,” she says. “You’d see little boys trying to play baseball and they didn’t have a ball or a bat; they played with a stick and a rock. I wanted to do something for them, so one weekend morning I got in contact with the person at the gym. I only had a few girls that came to help me that first morning, but through the week, more and more girls came.”
Hernandez also teaches the girls in Bimini how to play volleyball. Volleyball is her passion and she not only plays for Westminster, she also plays club volleyball. She has been named to the First Team All Dade squad since her freshman year and she was the Miami Herald Player of the Year in her sophomore year. She has been nominated as the Gatorade Florida Player of the Year and the Prep Volleyball Florida Player of the Year. She also has been a two time Copa Dorada recipient and has been named twice to the All-Tournament Team at Nationals.
Hernandez says the Bimini girls’ volleyball program started with shirts and a few volleyballs, and the net was only a string. When she returned to Miami, she began to raise money to broaden the project.
“I made presentations to business people,” she says. “If they liked what I said, they usually donated money; and if they didn’t, well, they didn’t give anything,” she says. “But we’ve raised over $5,000. Now I’m going to make shirts and sell them at school, at volleyball tournaments and in the Bahamas, anywhere I go.”
The Bimini town does have a gym, so Hernandez brought a volleyball net system like the ones used in U.S. gyms. Now the girls have a real net to use and play volleyball indoors. She teaches them the fundamentals of the game such as how to pass, serve and set up a shot.
“At the end of practice, we all play and it’s fun,” Hernandez says.
One day she hopes to bring a Bimini girls’ volleyball team to Miami to play in a tournament. She says the trip itinerary may also include visits to area colleges. This summer, she plans to add baseball and basketball to the Bimini program and she has been collecting equipment for the kids to use. She plans to travel back and forth between Miami and Bimini between volleyball tournaments.
“I can’t spend the whole summer in Bimini,” she says. “I have club volleyball and hopefully the nationals again with Westminster.”
Hernandez participates in a variety of sports. She plays tennis, competed in the high jump for the track and field team and played soccer until it conflicted with her club volleyball schedule. Now that she is entering her senior year, she is being recruited by numerous colleges. She is looking for a good academic school where she can also play volleyball, and she has narrowed her possible majors down to broadcast journalism, criminology and sports management. Her list of possible schools includes the University of North Carolina, Clemson, Florida State, the University of Miami, Florida International, Harvard and Yale.
“It would be really nice to be a Division I player, but it may be that a Division I might not be the best fit for me,” she says. At school, Hernandez is in the National Honor Society and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She used to participate in more school clubs, but dropped out to concentrate on Bimini Buds.
By Linda Bernfeld Rodriguez