Student Blog

Meet the Newest Addition to the Access Team

Soraya Ramos

Meet Soraya:

Soraya joined Access Youth Academy in August 2015. Born and raised in South San Diego, Soraya became the first in her family to enroll and graduate from a four-year university. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Chicana/o Studies. Shortly after graduation, she joined the Teach For America Chicago corp to teach in Chicago’s under-served communities. Soraya taught 4th grade Bilingual education on the Northwest side of Chicago for three years before deciding to move back to San Diego.


Here’s her take on her first week at Access…


“My first week at Access was a success! From the moment I stepped foot into the office, the staff made me feel right at home. This immediate sense of comfort allowed me to ask for guidance and questions. I had to take in lots of information regarding Access and the Academic coordinator position; however, Chrissy facilitated the transition beautifully. She provided the freedom to create a classroom space but also suggested certain things we could add for the students.  Also, knowing that my colleagues have high expectations for each other encourages me to continue learning and working hard.

Academic Coordinator

One of the best parts of being part of the Access family is that the team works with passion and conviction to impact the lives of our youth. The students are at the forefront of every decision that is made at Access. In turn, the students feel the love and are invested in the program.”



rsz_san-diego-beer-run---original_copyThe San Diego Beer Run is back and bigger than ever! Returning for its fourth year, revamped and celebrating fun, fitness and the regions burgeoning craft brewing industry, this 21+ event is sure to capture the outgoing spirit of San Diegans while raising much needed funds for Access Youth Academy.

Attracting up to 1000 participants, this year’s run has moved to the Embarcadero Marina Park South and will take place on Saturday 29 August with festivities kicking off from 6:30 am. The run begins at 7:30 am followed by an expanded craft beer festival, which will also be open to the public from 8 am.

The Executive Director of Access, Renato Paiva, was ever so appreciative of the support from not only the event, but also the participants that go that extra mile in raising extra funds for local students.

“This run is symbolic in a way because of the extra effort our students take to reach their own personal goals, and I challenge participants of this years event to help raise even more funds (via personal pages on to help these kids go to colleges when circumstances have historically said otherwise” Mr. Paiva said.

Registration is now open at Participants will receive race entry, event t-shirt, 12 oz beer stein, 2 free beer tickets and admission to the post-run craft beer festival.

For more information please contact Brandi Schutt at or call 858-202-0406.


Student Blog


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NUSEA Urban Citizenship Tour : From Right to Left: Alana L. (NUSEA Director of Programs), Johnny (Access Youth Academy Student), Kevin L. (Access Youth Academy Student), Tim Wyantt (NUSEA Executive Director)



The citizenship tour, sponsored by NUSEA, was an incredible experience. Not many people can say they were interviewed by the Secretary of Education, or were able to meet four senators within the same day. It’s a memory to be treasured and learned from in almost every situation life thrusts upon us.

We started in New York City, traveled to Philadelphia, drove to Baltimore, and finished off in Washington DC. Everyday was jam packed with a myriad of varied events that all aimed to teach us how to become civically minded individuals and leaders. But, with any trip, a few of these experiences stood out against its iridescent background.

The most impactful moment of New York City was the tour of the 9/11 memorials and museum. It was beautiful but at the same time it was terrible. I don’t remember that day as a whole, but I have glimpsed bits and pieces of it. The museum brought the shock and horror to life for all of us. No one left without tears in their eyes.

It was important to make that trip because history is crucial. Progress simply can’t exist without understanding what you’re moving from. An event such as that will outlive time’s obscurity, and our nation was forever changed. One must be able to answer why and how in order to make a difference.

Philadelphia’s highlight has a much lighter tone. The day we spent there was just non-stop fun. The drive over, playing squash at SquashSmarts, and even our tour of where the Declaration of Independence was signed were filled with laughs. But the best part had to be attending the Phillies game. After meeting the players (who none of us could name), we got to enjoy the accommodations of a VIP box, complete with food, drinks, desert, and a perfect view from the first base line.

It was the sort of extravagance none of us had ever been a part of before. Some of us had never seen a baseball game before, which is a travesty in itself. But, we bonded a crazy amount during the game. We cheered, laughed, danced, and sang together throughout the whole thing. I even became friends with someone who I thought I wouldn’t really grow to like.

It may not seem as big as meeting a senator, but bonding at a tour like this is an integral part of the overall experience. Everyone shares in what is offered, otherwise we all miss out on a few pieces.

Baltimore stood out for two reasons. The first is that our hotel was incredible. I’ve never had a more comfortable bed before. They had free coffee with good creamer in the lobby. They even made us fresh chocolate chip cookies after our meeting with D. Watkins, which were still warm and gooey.

The other reason would have to be the meeting with D. Watkins himself. I decided that I wouldn’t ask questions this time, and just listen (for once in my life). The subject matter consisted of the systematic inequality that is prevalent in the US, and how we can tackle it. He pushed us to share our skills with our homes and neighborhoods in order to derive true value from them. Nothing felt impossible when he spoke. The greatest wrongs weren’t impossible to fix.

He gave us a desire for direction and purpose; a key to making real change.

Washington DC was just one amazing thing after another. Senators and monuments alike have burned themselves into my memory. But, the meeting with the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan easily took every cake.

He really wanted our input and truly cared about what we had to say. I guess NUSEA and all of our programs in this sense. The opinion of an adolescent is either discounted entirely or valued a whole lot less than the opinion of an adult based on experience, especially within the education system. This is flawed. Education constantly shifts with time and policy, and no one understands the situation better than one who lives it everyday.

I felt valued. Important. I was making a difference. I could make things better for the next group of kids who would go through what I did. We all reveled in this and utilized our time to its fullest.

NUSEA’s worth really shows when things like this happen. We are all from different clubs and different parts of the United States. We all have different backgrounds and experience life in different settings. Yet we gelled as best friends do and continue to talk, even as I type this blog post.

Something amazing was born out of this. I believe these connections will tether us in spite of time and distance.




July 23, 2015 – San Diego, CA – Two exceptional students from the Access Youth Academy are currently participating in the Annual National Urban Squash and Education Association’s (NUSEA) Citizenship Tour. The tour, now in its second year, is aimed to encourage civic engagement and public service and encompasses several stops on an eight-day athletic and academic journey from New York to Washington, D.C.

Kevin Le and Johnny Hayes – who were selected through a competitive application process – joined 19 other student athletes from the 17 national urban squash programs, to learn how to become more civically engaged through the lens of civil rights and its role in shaping our nation’s identity, politics, and history.


Access Youth Academy Executive Director, Renato Paiva, highlighted that the Tour was a terrific opportunity for students to learn and think critically about the nation’s present-day issues.

“During the trip, Kevin and Johnny will have the once in a lifetime experience of spending time with leaders in government, journalism, education, policy and the nonprofit community.

“In the end it’s about inspiring these young students to make a difference and becoming informed citizens by helping them understand the importance of public service” Mr. Paiva said.


The eight day tour has already seen meetings with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Senators Gillibrand (D-NY), Franken (D-MN) and Heitkamp (D-ND), and New York Times and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist David Segal.

Kevin Le, 17, was quick to mention his own tour highlights which included chance to play a game of squash with Mr. Segal at the Harvard Club and discussing the issues of student lottery picks for local charters schools, of which he was one at the Preuss School at UCSD.

“Meeting with Secretary Duncan made me feel more inspired to work hard to make sure that everyone gains the education they deserve in the future. Nobody’s education should be determined by a lottery pick.

“I know that it is really difficult to enroll in these types of schools because of their highly selective system and process. This fact makes me more motivated to become engaged in our society and try to help fight for education for all” Le said.

Kevin Le will be heading to Wesleyan College in the fall on a full 4-year scholarship, with Hayes (16) beginning his senior year at The Preuss School.