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For Surprise high schooler, volleyball success only part of achievements

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SURPRISE – For most high school volleyball players, getting a full-ride scholarship to play for University of California, San Diego, would be an accomplishment all by itself.

For Jacqueline Kientzler, a senior co-captain of Valley Vista High School’s team, it joins a long list of achievements.

Those range from being at the top of her class in academics and a National Merit Scholar to starting Pause for the Friends of Paws Inc., an organization that helps those in homeless shelters keep their pets.

And she accomplished the latter as a sixth-grader who lived in Tucson at the time.

“For homeless people that are alone and don’t have a friend or a family member with them, that’s their only companion and really their only tie to reality,” Kientzler said.

Leslie Briggs, Kientzler’s mother, said her daughter did all of the setup work on her own, including setting up bank accounts and filing last year for tax exemptions.

“She raised $2,500 by herself and filed all the forms,” Briggs said. “Her vision is to supply all of the homeless in the Tucson region because that’s where she’s from and she saw that need.”

Pause for the Friends of Paws uses drives and donations to supply leashes, collars, blankets, cooling pads and water bowls for the pets of the homeless.

Kienzler said her age was never an impediment.

“I guess you could say that I never really had that notion that I was 11 and I couldn’t start a nonprofit,” she said. “I ran into kinks along the way, but I just had my mind set on a goal and that’s what I went for.”

Briggs said her daughter’s determination and strength are all the more remarkable because of a tragedy she experienced at age 8, when her father committed suicide.

“It’s ironic because I look up to her,” Briggs said. “She’s a lot like a Phoenix; from the ashes rises an amazing bird.”

Tonya Lee, varsity volleyball coach at Valley Vista, she said Kientzler’s motivation is unique.

“She knows exactly what she wants and she goes for it,” Lee said. “She wants to be No. 1, so she studies as hard as she can. She wants to be No. 1 on the court, so she studies and she works hard for it. She’s just driven.”

While most high school students are trying to figure out who they are and what they want to accomplish in life, Lee said that Kientzler is ahead of the game.

“I think she knows who she is and she’s not afraid to be that person and being in high school, that’s very rare to see someone who’s that confident in who they are,” she said. “She makes herself stand far ahead of anybody else I’ve ever seen.”

Kientzler said the confidence to juggle all of the things she is involved in comes from her commitment to each of them.

“No one can be successful if they’re not doing what they are passionate about,” she said. “I enjoy learning, I enjoy playing volleyball and I enjoy helping my community and that’s what has kind of kept me going when everything is above my head.”