Parker overcomes odds while also carrying on a dream

Nittany Nation

Jonni Parker doesn’t let the difficulty in her life dissaude.

The Penn State volleyball freshman was diagnosed with severe hearing loss at the age of four, but if you asked her if she thought she wouldn end up in Happy Valley.

“I always thought I would’ve been playing softball at a different school, my own things,” Parker said.

“I’ve had a lot of players who haven’t had a hearing disability that elected to not listen, so I’m not sure that Jonni’s lack of hearing has much of an impact,” Penn State coach Russ Rose said.

It’s because she had the ultimate role model, her older sister, Paige.

“I need to make sure she can hear coaches and teammates closer to her and drown out the band,” Paige said.

Paige works as an audiologist, a career inspired by Jonni.

“The look on her face when she heard some sounds that she hadn’t heard before, that’s when I knew I wanted to go into the field.

However, growing up, it was Paige who wanted to play at Penn State.

There’s a picture of me with my face painted with coach. When I was in high school, it was Penn State Penn State Penn State,” Paige said.

But, unfortunately for Paige.

“I was 5’7 and I didn’t get any taller,” Paige said.

Now she lives her dream through her sister.

“I enjoy watching her and getting into the games more because it’s me telling her how she messed up, not her telling me how I messed up,” Paige said.

But Jonni says it’s Paige who inspires her.

“It’s because I watched her growing up, like a lot of the reasons why i chose volleyball was watching her. When she was in high school, I’d be her ball girl, I’d be peppering in the gym when she had practice,” Jonni said.

Now the roles are reversed.

“She could’ve had so many excuses and she always works hard, always wants to be the best and to be where she’s at, I’m so excited,” Paige said.

Two sisters sharing a common bond, with one goal in mind.

“It’s funny because I was going to be a Penn State volleyball player, and now my sister is,” Paige said. “It’s just hard to believe she’s still at Penn State, and I’m ready for a national championship.”

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