NJTL 50 for 50: Heba Bullock
As the USTA Foundation celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the National Junior Tennis & Learning network, USTA.com looks at 50 NJTL leaders and alumni who helped shape this incredible community dedicated to helping youth strive for academic and athletic excellence on the tennis court, in the classroom and in life.
In this installment, we catch up with NJTL alumnus Heba Bullock, who currently serves as an officer in the United States Army.
The Heba Bullock File
Name: Heba Bullock
NJTL Chapter: 15-LOVE
Role with NJTL: Former participant
Year became active in NJTL: 1990
How did you first become involved with NJTL?
Heba Bullock: I was four years old when I started with NJTL. The 15-LOVE program in inner-city Albany was offering free tennis lessons to inner-city youth. My mom took me and my sisters down and we started playing from there.
What are some of the ways that 15-LOVE has benefited you on and off the court?
Heba Bullock: I was offered so many opportunities through 15-LOVE. I was selected for a youth program when I was 16 and flew to California to play tennis for a week with kids from all over the country. That would never have been possible without the NJTL and the USTA.
A lot of people in 15-LOVE started the program at a young age, so we got to see each other grow up, go off to college and still remain close friends to this day. It’s great networking, especially as an adult. A lot of them are still in the area and run businesses or do things for 15-LOVE and the USTA.
We grew up in the inner city and were exposed to a lot of things that could have made our paths completely different. The NJTL and the USTA gave people like us opportunities to get out of those situations and think about the bigger picture. They offered a lot of stuff outside of tennis as well. We talked about social issues or looked ahead to college and SATs. They looked at the whole person and not just the sport.
Are there any lessons or values you gained from NJTL that help you out now in the Army?
Heba Bullock: Definitely. It probably provided the initial basis of leadership. I’m an officer in the United States Army now and do that pretty much every day. Being able to work as part of a team, making good decisions and managing your time are all part of being a leader and we definitely learned that through the organization.
Being in the program also taught you to be secure and confident with yourself. They would tell us topics we were going to discuss and we’d have to do some background on it, so it gave us those initial critical thinking skills at an early age. I felt like I already had those skills in my tool bag and have enhanced them over my time in service.
Are you still involved with the NJTL?
Heba Bullock: I don’t play tennis now, but my son actually just asked me and I’m excited to get him involved. I do support from a distance with fundraisers. I just finished my Master’s at Georgetown University and chose the Capital Region as the non-profit to do my capstone project for that degree, so I was doing some pro-bono work for them.
You’re going to be in an on-court ceremony at the US Open for Military Appreciation Day. How excited are you for that?
Heba Bullock: My sister is also in service and currently in Afghanistan, so it’s an honor for our family to be able to do something like this. I’m a little bit intimidated by the 24,000 people part, but I’m excited to represent the Army in that capacity, as well as the NJTL, Albany and the Capital Region. I’m glad that the USTA is incorporating the military. Giving appreciation is the best thing that any organization can do because many of us are out there protecting the country, so I’m honored to be a representative of that service.