Student Blog



On the third day, we drove to New Jersey to visit Princeton. Along the way, we drove into a small town. I spotted deers and foxes in the rows of beautiful green trees. I felt anxious because Princeton was in my top 3 colleges. When we arrived on campus, we saw the athletics center with its contemporary architecture that I did not expect. It was beautiful. We met up with Isabella, a Princeton senior who plays on the squash team. She showed us around starting with the athletics facilities which were great. We then walked up to the different departments as Isabella answered questions about Princeton.

It was interesting to learn that Princeton did not have Pre-Med or Pre-Law and that the professors focus more on the undergraduates. I also learned about the eating clubs, which intimidated me at first because I have heard from other colleges about how exclusive they can be. However as we understood more about them and had the privilege to visit Isabella’s eating club, we both became more open to the system. The school was huge because it took us a while to walk around most of the campus. Princeton was overall very architecturally diverse and beautiful. The students, especially Isabella, were friendly and helpful, and they made our college visit very worthwhile.



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Johnny Hayes

Yale welcomed us with a world of castles and trees. Nghi and I, tired after a fun night at Wesleyan, woke up to buildings that looked like they were pulled out of our AP Art History textbook. We immediately went to the athletics center, which had an exterior that resembled a beginning-of-the-renaissance cathedral. We went up a couple floors to meet the head coach of the Yale team, a man named Dave Talbott. He and Renato caught up as we toured the facility, which boasted over fifteen courts with three exhibition courts. I couldn’t help but be floored. This was the place where champions fought with thousands of people behind them. The urge to play was almost irresistible, but we had no time.

Coach Talbott led us out of the facility and to the admissions office. Along the way he introduced us to quite a few structures and a lot of the history about Yale. We were also able to ask him questions about what it took to become a “Yaley” and part of the squash team. He didn’t hold back, which I appreciated. We could become part of Yale and play Club or Intramural, but the team was way beyond our skill level.

He did mention, however, that no Urban Squash student had ever been accepted to Yale before. It was almost an indirect challenge, one that I knew I had to pursue. The sparkle in Nghi’s eye told me she aimed to do the same.

He was also able to grant us special access to see the dining hall, which reminded us exactly of the great hall from Harry Potter. My draw nearly hit the floor as I took in how beautiful and how powerful all of Yale was. I guess I have a thing for gothic architecture.

Once we arrived in Admissions, Coach Talbot was able to put us in an official tour group, despite the wonderful job he had already done. After a few more rapid-fire questions, he went to go to a meeting, and we integrated ourselves into the tour.

Yale has a reputation for having some of the best tours, and I would have to agree. Our tour guide was funny and an excellent speaker. With him, we saw the library, got an introduction to the residential college system, and even learned about some funny history. The most impressive was the residential system. Each college had a population that was in near-perfect ratio with the actual demographics of the students in Yale. For example, if Yale had 56% women in attendance, each college would have about 56% women. These people became a family for you. You lived with them, ate with them, put on/attended special events with them, and did all of the like with them. You were friends with people from every college, of course, but Yale specifically divided itself into twelve parts so you could make meaningful and lasting connections much more easily. Nghi and I both think this is what makes Yale great, although the outstanding academia and striking scenery are huge pluses.

We ended the tour with a visit to the local Urban program, Squash Haven. I had made some friends on the Citizenship Tour who attended that program, but they were not in attendance while we were there. It was still interesting to see the similarities and differences between our two programs, and their staff was equally kind and supportive.

Before we left Yale for Vassar, we stopped at the gift shop to pick up a few souvenirs to commemorate the trip. We left with positive, but mixed, feelings. Nghi and I began this tour with ideas about what we wanted to do, but as we fell in love with more and more colleges, the number of possible futures we had started growing.

Renato told us that this was important. It was better to love the colleges we were seeing than to hate all of them. Nghi and I agreed, but now there are more doors open then I ever thought there would be. It’s a wonderful and scary thing.



Johnny Hayes

Vassar was different from all of the other colleges we had seen. The University is huge, 1,000 acres of beautiful woodland, with a tiny student population that was just under 2,500. Everything was spread out, and the architecture of the buildings was almost as impressive as Yale’s, and even better in certain cases (i.e, the stain glass windows in the library).

We first hit the athletics center, where we caught Coach Jane Parker leading a beginner group. They have six incredibly well kept courts, and only shared this building with the volleyball team. Vassar Squash had undergone total renovations in 2006, and it showed. Despite not being Harvard or Yale, the facility impressed us with how well kept it was.

Coach Jane (she didn’t seem to want us to call her Parker) was what made the whole tour very different from any other squash school we had seen. Most other schools, Wesleyan aside, clearly push for championship victories. It isn’t there only, and mostly not their major, focus, but the competitive edge they were looking for was clear.

Coach Jane doesn’t want that. Vassar is only a Division III school, and she is proud of that fact. Last year, despite not winning the Division, she spoke with pride about how hard her students played and the amount of work they put in as a team. Renato put it the best: She isn’t looking to create a team of champions, she’s looking to create a squash experience. After the nature of other places we had visited, Nghi and I received this as a welcome refresher.

Coach Jane then took us on her own tour. Although we weren’t able to see much, as everything was very spread out, what we did see was impactful. The library, as previously mentioned, was well kept and breathtaking. The grounds are amazing. The dance hall is beautiful, and a lot of their focus is on the arts. They are even putting the finishing touches on a new science research center, which would be perfect for Nghi, who wants to become a Oncology Surgeon.

We were also able to meet the professor of Geography, a very kind woman who helped give us a small introduction to the coursework and course load of a Vassar class. There is no doubt that the academics are incredibly challenging, but the support system at Vassar doesn’t allow kids to fall through the cracks. My favorite fact was that all of the classes are taught by professors who hold doctorates and no one else. There is no TA who steps in to teach, so our education is quality assured. Also, because of the lack of general-ed requirements, most of our education is shaped by our individual choices. Education at Vassar is highly personalized.

The main thing that kept me from signing up at that very moment was the atmosphere. It was quiet and sleepy. This isn’t a bad thing, but for a San Diego native, it is more than just a bit different. Coach Jane told us about fly-in opportunities that we can take in order to get a feel for the campus, which will most likely end up being necessary so I can experience what the social life is in the school.

We ended the day with a few photos, and began our drive out to New York City. Coach Jane and Vassar opened up a door for us that was incredibly different from any other school we had gone to. Our choices are multiplying even further, and this would most likely only continue as the College Tour continues.

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When we arrived at Wesleyan, the first thing we did was meet up with Kevin Le, a 2014 Access alumni who had been trying to convince us to attend the University in the weeks leading up to the trip. Seeing him was equal parts joyous and emotional. Kevin and I were both on the Boy’s A Team and had worked hard to be successful. He was my mentor in many ways, and having to take his place for others has been an honor and a challenge.

Previously on this trip, we had visited Harvard and Trinity, each leaving us with distinct impressions. Wesleyan did the same for both Nghi and I. It gave us an incredible sense of community, support, and acceptance. We walked into the squash center and were met with kind smiles and invitations to play. We couldn’t, neither of us had brought any clothes, and they were genuinely disappointed. The whole team wanted to get to know us as people and athletes.

After settling in at the dorms, we met up with Kevin’s friends Ana and Ali, who Nghi would be sleeping with that night, and got dinner. There we met up with more of their friends, all of whom told us about Wesleyan’s environment and culture. There we found another plus, the food at Wesleyan is delicious.

From there Kevin took us on a night tour of the campus. He showed us the library, arts center, senior houses, The Wes Market, and other key facets of the campus. Not only was it beautiful, but it all seemed to be geared toward student success. There are so many systems of support put in place to make sure students succeed no matter what they do. This is even true for students who double major and play sports, where no classes intersect.

From the tour, we hung out with Kevin’s friends until we had to go to sleep. They answered our questions about the school and told us that they really hope we choose to apply. They didn’t have to say so, Nghi and I agreed that applying was well worth it.

The next morning we woke up early to meet up with Coach Shona to find out more about the school. We got a tour of their athletics facility, which was as impressive as the rest of the school, and were able to ask her more questions.

I went with the obvious, and asked about the LGBT community’s presence both on the team and in the school. Coach Shona informed us that one of her past number ones was openly gay and was widely accepted by the team. He performed in burlesque shows on campus and the team even went to cheer him on. No one on campus cares what your orientation, gender identity, race, religion, etc is, they simply want you to be a good person.

With that, we left to go explore Yale University. But our experience at Wesleyan is still with us. It became a contender for my top 3, and I know Nghi feels the same.


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Our second stop was Trinity, which was about a 2 hour drive from where we got lunch. As we drove through Connecticut by an expressway, we saw many lush, green trees and open ponds. This is not like San Diego at all because of the drought. We arrived at Trinity and parked near a grass field.

As we walked into Trinity’s squash facilities, I became anxious because Trinity is the school which had the longest winning streak in squash history. Their courts is organized in a U-shape with a pyramid of stands in the middle. I really love that setup because a spectator could observe 5-6 squash matches at the same time. We then went to see the two glass courts Trinity has. They were both extremely nice and I felt the need to touch the glass walls. They felt satisfying and gave us both an extreme desire to jump in court and start playing.

We then waited for Elroy, a Trinity alumni who was helping out another urban squash program called Capitol Squash. Capitol Squash was doing their tryouts for 4th and 5th graders from the neighborhood to play squash. The kids were so cute and was already extremely attentive. We were both excited for them because we have similar backgrounds. Capitol Squash inspired me to keep a closer eye on the younger members of my program to help them be on top of academics so they can focus on squash. Elroy and Meg, who also helped develop Capitol Squash, personally answered our questions. They were extremely friendly and offered us help and advice. Overall, Trinity was a very helpful and progressive college for squash.


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We arrived at Boston at 6 AM on a red-eye flight and headed straight to Harvard. Even though both of us had been to the East Coast, we had never been to Boston before, and it was truly a whole new world to us. We drove through the city besides the Charles River, and it fascinated me that such a large river was between a city like that. We then drove through a row of similar masonry buildings. Our Executive Director, Renato, who had been an assistant squash coach at Harvard, pointed out different buildings to us and explained what they were. We then stopped at Harvard’s main plaza to eat breakfast. Everything around us was beautiful and different. As we sat in the booth to eat breakfast, we looked around at the people walking around the square as they started their morning. It was easy to identify who was a student and who was a tourist. Students wore backpacks and a confident look on their bright faces. Just by looking at their gait, we could tell how independent they had become. I felt quite nervous at first to be in the presence of such geniuses. I wondered how did they get in this school and am sure Johnny felt the way.


After a while, we drove across the bridge to the Athletics facilities. We had a short tour from Renato, and was very excited to see the courts and meet the coaches. As we walked into the squash facility, my jaw dropped as I saw the glass court. This is my first time seeing one and it was amazing. We then met the Head Coach of Harvard, Mike Way, and the assistant coach, Luke Hammond. Both were very enthusiastic about their job and genuinely welcomed us. I still felt quite nervous to interact with them. As we sat down to talk however, I got more and more comfortable. They were really friendly and answered all our questions. Renato asked them about the myth of Harvard and how hard it was to get in. They said that the school myth was misplaced because many students who thought they could never get in was accepted. He also emphasized how much help Harward gives its students and that we could never fail here. That gave me a lot of reassurance and made me comfortable and I’m sure it was the same for Johnny. Overall, I felt like Harvard went from an impossible dream to an amazing possibility.

By Nghi

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Access Youth Academy has several students who have been granted the opportunity to travel and study abroad. This is such an exciting time for them to explore and broaden their horizons by seeing the world and interacting with others. Yan from Team 1 had the opportunity this summer to travel to and across Europe. Here’s a little snapshot into her adventures…


“Studying Abroad was everything I ever dreamt of it to be and plenty more. It is the best thing that’s ever happened to me because during my time abroad I witnessed many of the things that I have learned about in Europe. So one of my most memorable summer highlights is honestly just being able to witness history rather than read about it through the textbook.


In two months I was able to travel to six countries in Europe (England, Ireland, Switzerland, France, Italy, Norway) and saw many of the world’s iconic sites. Finally, I was able to picnic by the Eiffel Tower, Walk through the Hall of Mirrors, Casually stroll pass the Colosseum and see skylines that were unbelievably stunning. In Italy, I indulged in Gelato, pizza and pasta everyday.


In Paris, I had a crepe on the side of the street.


In Norway, I climbed the highest mountain of Bergen, Norway and then another 900 stone step up to what I thought was the most heavenly atmosphere. Lastly, I’ve met many wonderful and kind people on this trip that made me realize there are actually a lot of nice people out there. These people,  many were locals of the places that I visited were just so kind and made me feel very welcome there. I grew a lot more independent and courageous from studying abroad because I was able to do things I never knew I could especially live and go abroad alone. It has changed my life and how I approach life moving forward!” 11145223_10207085204633162_6680033956545185549_n






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previewThe Access Gala will be held at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club.  Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served while bidding for the silent auction takes place.  Following the cocktail hour, guests will enjoy a beautiful sit down dinner and evening program.  We will wrap up the Gala by announcing the silent auction winners and share some closing thoughts.  We hope to see you in attendance at this year’s Gala.

Register now to reserve your seat!

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