2016 Seniors Graduation & 10th Anniversary Volunteer Appreciation Event

Two more Access Youth Academy students will be graduating from the first phase of our innovative 12 year urban squash and education program to join both local and national universities and will be joined by around 50 of our key volunteers as we continue our 10th Anniversary Celebrations.

We are very proud to introduce our 5th graduating class. Johnny (Wesleyan University) & Nghi (UCSD) were welcomed into our successful program in 2010 and all their hard work and determination has paid off with both students being accepted into their dream colleges, with Nghi also being accepted as a Gates Millennium Scholar.

For more information or to RSVP for this event please email Victor Marques at or call 858.202.0406

Graduation 2016 - 5.13.16 (Front)


Graduation 2016 - 5.12.16 (Back)



10th Anniversary Gala ~ Venue Announcement

Access Youth Academy has been transforming young lives since 2006. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, partners, and supporters, ten years later we continue to provide vital after school programming built on our four pillars of Academic Achievement, Health & Wellness, Leadership, and Social Responsibility. We will be celebrating our achievements over the past decade and honoring our first students to graduate through college during our Annual Gala on Saturday, October 22, 2016 at the San Diego Hall of Champions, Balboa Park from 6:00 pm – 10:00pm.
Tickets are now available for purchase with tables of 11 (includes an Access student host) ranging from $1000 – $3000 and individual seats from $100 – $300. A floor plan is included for your convenience below.

So what are you waiting for? Secure your spot today and come meet and be inspired by our students achievements as they celebrate their graduations from Ivy League schools such as Columbia and UPenn and leading local universities including SDSU.




Gala Event Floor Plan - Color_EDITED_3

Student Blog


By Kacey McCoig, Health and Wellness Coordinator.


Practice. Not just a word. Sit for a minute and contemplate its meaning.

The words that come to my mind: repetition, sweat, discipline, frustration and empowerment, growing, gaining.

In fact, this is the unique component that attracted me to Access in the first place. Sport. Not squash, the sport. But sport in general. What a powerful tool. I know it was for me…there’s no way I’d be who I am today if sport wasn’t central in my life growing up. Why? Because it’s a practice. Practice…period…no matter what type of practice, teaches lessons relevant and applicable to our larger lives, to the bigger picture. They can be amplified and used as an analogy to just about any situation and used to obtain perspective. No? Am I wrong about this?

As the Health & Wellness Coordinator here at Access, I dish out a lot of information, but what I really aim to do here is promote…personal practice. One way we’re doing this is through setting personal goals and designing personal implementation plans for big or small, easy or not-so-easy goals. I have students reporting progress in the form of: drinking more water, decreased stressed, improved organization, breathing, taking time for self, heightened levels of personal peace. How great is that? For me, the success isn’t when they get in their five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Rather, it’s the experience of creating a plan, sticking to it and being able to grasp a higher rung on the ladder and say “I did it.” Like sport, this is a practice, and one that has no boundaries when it comes to applicability. Like practicing any sport, the process doesn’t necessarily get any easier, but it does heighten self-efficacy, a momentous means of breaking down barriers and looking up even higher on the ladder.

As a dietitian, one of my pet peeves is when adults comment that children can eat whatever they want…they’re young enough. On the flip side; however, we dish out really good advice that we are old enough to not take ourselves. (No judgment…most of us are at least a little bit guilty) But, isn’t this oftentimes the case? “Eat your vegetables.” “You shouldn’t watch so much television. Your brain is still developing.” I’m sure we could think of a number of them. The fact is that we do this because it’s hard to adopt or change behaviors, and goal-setting though effective, is a very systematic process that requires time, trust, repetition, and discipline (these words sound familiar?). It requires practice, and there’s not really a short cut. I say we’re not really serious about a goal until we write it down. So…we need to physically write down our plans, tell others about it for a means of accountability, anticipate and strategize a way around obstacles.  And, (yeah!) we need to wisely select how and when to reward ourselves when we achieve progress.

This was like nutrition counseling 101 in college, and I was the goal setting, disciplined master of achievement. But years later in grad school, I took a class on behavior change (kind of the focal point of public health), which, through the semester, forced me to go through this process again. I use the word, “force” intentionally because…I didn’t want to do it. My mental talk sounded much like what I hear from some of the students… ”There’s nothing I want to work on.”  “I’m not going to stick to this plan.”  “It’s not my priority.” When, in fact, I was just out of…practice. Only when we truly practice and cultivate a new behavior do we develop a new mindset or evolve our current ones. And, if we choose wisely in what and how we practice, it is possible to cultivate a lasting state of awareness, a state of motivation and persistent and overriding consideration of “me.” Does that sound selfish? No way. What that translates to is a conscious state of choosing how you talk to yourself and how to make decisions that are in line with who you are, what your body, mind and spirit really wants or needs at that point in time.

Without practice, we will likely, as I did, forget what we “know” and repeatedly act or think in a manner that doesn’t quite align with our goals or with (on a deeper level) see ourselves to be.

Obviously, this isn’t just for kids…it may sound a bit drastic to some of you, but it’s really pretty fundamental. This process…this practice can be applied to simple, daily lifestyle choices or to very complicated and difficult to address issues. Now, this is the really important part. It’s not about the information, which we have or can get at any time. It’s about the practice: going through the motions, coming back to the intention, finding that discipline and experiencing…physical, mentally, emotionally, the sensations of growth.

So go get some for yourself, and if I can be of help anyway, please don’t hesitate. We’re a community supporting one another. Thank you for your continued support for these amazing kids and this program. Reach out any time, stop by the club and meet the students if you haven’t already. I wish you all the best in your practice.

Access Health & Wellness Coordinator, Kacey McCoig, is leading from the front when it comes to helping our students live healthier lives through the mindfulness of their actions.


Two Students Selected To Participate In Prestigious Urban Citizenship Tour

What does it mean to be an engaged citizen? What are the different ways that each of us can make a difference in our respective communities? The Urban Squash Citizenship Tour will give 22 civically minded and academically accomplished high school and college students from across the country the opportunity to explore these questions and more over an 8 day swing across the East Coast.

We are proud to announce that both America S. and Access College Coordinator Eric Malo have both been selected to participate in Citizenship Tour in July. This tour is a terrific opportunity to become informed citizens and to highlight the importance of public service within the country’s 17 urban squash programs. The trip will focus on the topic of civil rights and its role in shaping our nation’s identity, politics, and history, beginning in New York City, travelling through Philadelphia, and ending in Washington, DC.

During the trip, students will spend time with leaders in government, journalism, education, policy and the nonprofit community; visit sites that have played a part in American history; engage with local urban squash programs; exercise and practice at university and urban squash facilities; and promote NUSEA’s local member programs and urban squash generally.

This is the third year of the Citizenship Tour and highlights of last year’s Tour included meetings with Secretary of Education​ Arne Duncan, ​Senator ​Kirsten Gillibrand, ​Senator ​Heidi Heitkamp, Senator​ Al Franken​, Congressman ​Elijah Cummings, A​cting Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions U.S. Department of the Treasury ​Amias Gerety, ​and Commissioner of NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs ​Nisha Agarwal.

The group will again tour the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and New York Times Building in New York City, visit Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and tour the U.S. Capitol and the White House in Washington, D.C.



Victor Marques Joins The Access Development Team

Access Youth Academy is happy to announce that Victor Marques has joined the development team as its new Development Coordinator.

Victor was born and raised in Salvador, Brazil, and earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Business from Ruy Barbosa University. Following his graduation he spent two years as an Associate Auditor at PricewaterhouseCoopers, providing external team audits for many non-profit and for-profit clients.

Making the big move to California, Victor spent almost three years with the non-profit organization Junior Youth Empowerment Program where he helped raise the capacity of young adolescents to understand the realities of their community and empower them to serve and transform their neighborhoods.

Get to know the team – A Q&A with Victor Marques

What drew you to this role at Access?
Coming from another youth focused non-profit and learning more about Access’s mission is what ultimately attracted me to apply for this position. I was able to see the impact the program has in the lives of those youth evolved and wanted to play a role. By empowering the youth to take ownership of their academic, professional, personal lives allows them to become positive agents of social transformation.
What are your goals for the coming year?
Because I’ve recently move to San Diego, I feel that for this upcoming year I will be learning more about ways to contribute to the betterment of my community.
What motivates you in life?
What motivates me in life is the desire to always strive for excellence in all different aspects of my life. This desire pushes me to excel higher and higher levels. 
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy surfing.
Do you play squash?
I actually had never played squash before joining the Access team, but now that I have learned the basics and played a few times I can see the sport becoming a hobby of mine as well.
Victor will be predominantly working on small gifts and grants. You can contact Victor at


NUSEA Visits Access For Bi-yearly Review

All NUSEA programs are evaluated bi-yearly by a revolving panel of Executive Directors from veteran urban squash programs. This year, Access was evaluated by NUSEA’s ED, Tim Wyant. The evaluation includes observing programming in all facets on and off court, interviewing students, parents, volunteers, our partner school, staff and board– all the moving pieces of the organization. The two day visit was an opportunity to observe the strengths of the program, strong work ethic of both students and staff, and the overall growth of the program.

While attending an Access Youth Academy board meeting, Tim commented on the success of the Access; highlighting the long-term results of the Access program, the caliber of colleges the students are accepted to, the strong partnership with Preuss, the development of a Health & Wellness program, as well as the “on the ground work” as being exceptional.

Tim Wyant provides an overview of NUSEA, its programs, and support for member organizations to the Access Board.
National Squash and Education Association (NUSEA) Executive Director, Tim Wyant provides an overview of NUSEA, its programs, and support for member organizations to the Access Board at its February meeting.



International Women’s Day takes place today and to mark the event, the Professional Squash Association (PSA) has picked some of the most inspirational and influential women ever to play squash, which includes homegrown talent and Access Youth Academy student Reyna Pacheco.

An affiliate of the World Squash Federation (WSF), the Professional Squash Association (PSA) is the global governing body responsible for the administration of both men’s and women’s professional squash around the world and released the following statement regarding Ms. Pacheco’s inclusion in this influential list.

“World No.79 Reyna Pacheco had to work hard to hone her talent and make it as a professional player and her story is certainly an inspirational one.

A Mexican immigrant who moved to the United States when she was just four years old, she found adapting to life in a different country a challenge but that soon changed when she was introduced to squash.

She became the first player to come through the urban squash program and begin a career as a professional and is proof that squash is open to everyone regardless of social status or upbringing”. 

At just 21 years of age and due to graduate from Columbia University this year as a Gates Millennium Scholar, Pacheco has a big future ahead of her and a mature outlook on both her own individual goals and the expectations the sport is putting on her shoulders with honors like the one today.

“I am honored to be included in a list with women who have truly achieved incredible things for our sport and while squash has come a long way in terms of gender equality both on and off the court, there are still a lot of steps left to take for our sport, for urban squash and for women around the world in general in terms of equality.

“I look forward to my own evolution as a positive role model for my community, the students at Access Youth Academy where this journey began back in 2006, and urban squash programs across the country. I hope to prove that we can all achieve our dreams regardless of the color of our skin, our economic status or our gender” Ms. Pacheco said

In a big day for the organization, Access Youth Academy Strategic Advisor Sarah Fitz-Gerald was also announced on the PSA’s prestigious list. Reyna spent this past summer in Australia working with former World Champion Fitz-Gerald and came back fired up for a big 2016 of which she has already cracked the top 100 rankings to a career high number 79 (ranked female player) in the world.

“I am elated to be named among people who I truly admire. I look forward to continue to work really hard on and off court to be like and achieve the kinds of things that these women have achieved and look forward to what the future holds” Ms. Pacheco said.

Reyna Pacheco in action for the Columbia University Squash team
Reyna Pacheco in action for the Columbia University Squash team


Access Vacancy – Development Officer (F/T)

Access Youth Academy is an academic enrichment program entering its 10th year of service and has an operating budget of over $800,000. This position will be appealing for someone looking to learn and develop new approaches to annual giving with a strong focus on metrics, strategy and modern approaches to donor relations.

This full-time position reports to the organizations Development Director and is responsible for helping execute effective cultivation approaches to increase the donor base and awareness of Access Youth Academy through a variety of in person meetings, presentations, and networking opportunities with key stakeholders.

The ideal candidate will be positive and adaptable, someone who asks great questions and wants to learn. They will also be enthusiastic about transforming young lives through education and narrowing the inequality of opportunity.

Grant Identification, Research & Proposal Preparation

  • Track deadlines related to grant opportunities for government, corporate and foundation donors and communicate regularly with Development Team
  • Identify and solicit new grant opportunities that align with the mission and goals of the organization
  • Assist Development Director with follow up reports and grant tracking throughout the calendar year

Special Events & Projects

  • Work with Development and Program staff to plan and execute yearly events including a large scale 10 year anniversary gala in October
  • Support Program staff on an as needed basis

Donor Tracking, Correspondence & Recognition

  • Maintain donor database on a regular basis including but not limited to inputting donor communication updates, updating contact information, importing and exporting lists, queries, etc. when necessary
  • Compose solicitation and cultivation letters to donors and prospects
  • Prepare acknowledgement letters for all gifts
  • Work with Development Staff including Executive Director on all fundraising campaigns
  • Working with donors to ensure gifts are stewarded correctly


  • Updating organization website
  • Produce monthly newsletter and contribute to social media strategy

Education, Skills and Experience

  • Bachelors degree
  • A minimum of 1-2 years in a nonprofit or similar fundraising role.
  • Experience using Salesforce a big plus.
  • Excellent writing and editing skills including letters to donors, outreach materials, e-mail campaigns, twitter, etc.
  • Proficiency with Mac desirable.
  • Experience and ability to work with all types of constituents such as donors, volunteers, board members, community and business leaders, government officials and others.
  • Ability to work independently, demonstrate initiative, and to complete and report on assignments.
  • Ability to pay attention to detail and also remain oriented to the “big picture”.

Access Youth Academy is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate against persons on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, marital status, age, disability, pregnancy, medical condition or covered veteran status.

Salary Range: $38,000 – $43,000

How to Apply: Please send a cover letter together with your resume to Renato Paiva, Executive Director:


Student Blog

Code for America – Full STEaM Ahead!

Our students visited the Neustar offices on March 2, 2016. A group of engineers within the company hosted an “Hour of Code”– an introduction to programming and technology to get youth interested in the STEM fields. Our students worked in pairs and learned to code using JavaScript. They created applications that told jokes, a greeter program that asked the user their name, and even a Magic 8 Ball application! Our students rose to the challenge and were able to reach mastery. At the end, we took a tour around the offices, got some snacks, and played a bit of ping pong with the engineers.

News, Press

Ruybal Becomes First Ever Student To Be Elected As A Board Member Of An Affiliate NUSEA Organization

Access Youth Academy is proud to announce that Natalie Ruybal (17 years old), has been appointed to serve a one year term on the organizations Board of Directors as the student representative of over 90 first generation college bound students from some of the most underserved communities in San Diego.

In this historic appointment, Ms. Ruybal’s passion for squash, art and robotics has seen her become the first student ever appointed to the peak decision-making body of one of the 22 National Urban Squash and Education Associations (NUSEA) member organizations.

Access Youth Academy Executive Director, Renato Paiva, highlighted this appointment as a reflection of the organizations commitment to provide leadership opportunities to students as part of the programs four pillars of academic enrichment, health and wellness, leadership and social responsibility.

“At Access Youth Academy we believe that every child should have equal access to achieve their full potential and while this will be a steep learning curve for Natalie, it will end up being an amazing opportunity for her to work with some of San Diego’s most accomplished professionals and be a strong advocate for the needs of her peers” Mr. Paiva said.

Ruybal, a junior at the award winning Preuss School at UCSD in La Jolla, was elected via a two-step process including a popular vote among Access students, and a staff selection panel.

“I am honored to have the chance to serve on the Access board. It’s a great opportunity for students like me to experience real life leadership roles first hand and give those that the program serves an all-important voice at the table.

“I want to show that young people can make a real contribution and perhaps provide a catalyst for other urban squash programs across the country to adopt student representation on their own boards” Ms. Ruybal said.

Board Chair Blair Sadler, who, as the former President and CEO of Rady Children’s Hospital, is no stranger to high-level board negotiations, was excited about the new perspectives Ms. Ruybal would bring to the table.

“The Board recognizes that establishing strong links between itself and the students at Access Youth Academy and providing them with a platform to present their viewpoints will result in more informed and impactful outcomes.

“Natalie is an accomplished young woman, with plenty of great ideas and will be a true asset for the board as we chart our course for the future in what is our tenth anniversary year” Mr. Sadler said.

The new student representative position will serve a full, non-consecutive, one-year term beginning in February 2016.

Executive Director Renato Paiva, Board Chair Blair Sadler, new Board Member and Access student Natalie Ruybal, together with Access supporter Samantha Begovich, celebrate this historic appointment for all NUSEA programs nationwide.