Events, Press

Access Gala 2017 Registration Open!

Reserve your spot today and join us at our 2017 Gala and Silent Auction! For additional information, contact Jason Tucker, Development Director at (858) 860-5688 or

DATE: Saturday, October 14th, 2017

LOCATION: Paradise Point Resort and Spa, Mission Bay

TIME: 5:00 pm  VIP Reception

6:00 pm  Silent Auction & Cocktail Hour

7:30 pm  Welcome & Dinner

8:00 pm – Evening Program & Fund-A-Need Paddle Raise

PRICES: Tables of 10: $1000 – $3000, Individual tickets $100 – $300

About The Event – This theme of this year’s Access Gala is ‘Building A Future, Together’.

As Access embarks on its campaign to build a new state-of-the-art Squash & Learning Center in Southeast San Diego, we look forward to coming together with our amazing supporters and celebrating yet another year of student success, both on and off the court.

This event is far different from any other gala in the region, in that the evening’s hosts and key speakers are current students and program graduates. This provides an opportunity to showcase our impact and their stories through their own words. From the moment you are escorted from the valet, through our reception, dinner and keynote, you will learn more about our exceptional students, who are transforming their lives and the lives of their families through outstanding high school achievement and enrollment into some of the nation’s top colleges and universities.

News, Press

Urban Squash Students Selected To Attend Prestigious College Programs

Two local San Diego students have been selected as the National Urban Squash Association (NUSEA)’s nominees for summer academic opportunities at two of the most illustrious private schools in the Atlantic Northeast. Sabrina Herrera from Paradise Hills (92139) and Lexa Lara from Shelltown (92113) were selected along with an additional 34 underserved students from across the nation to take part in these enriching summer experiences.

Sabrina will be traveling to Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and Lexa will be attending The Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, much to the delight of Access Youth Academy Executive Director Renato Paiva.

“To be selected for one of these summer learning opportunities in what is a very competitive pool (students from 18 programs nationwide) is a big deal and testament to the strong and passionate essay applications. Students had to submit an essay of their students’ interests, qualities, and what makes them unique and a statement outlining their reasons for wanting to attend a summer school program.

“Once enrolled in summer school, students get to personalize their programs of study by working with dedicated teachers and having access to the full Academy campus. Sabrina and Lexa will be able to experience dorm life, set their curriculum schedule and engage with other students from across the nation and around the world.” Mr. Paiva said.

Both students attend the Preuss School at UCSD and are part of the Access Youth Academy program, which is a 12-year promise to underserved students who are first generation college bound.

“These rigorous boarding schools have been something that has never came up as an opportunity for me so this is an unbelievable experience. When I get older I want to feel like my hard work helped get me somewhere in life and strive to accomplish things for my family so they can feel like their sacrifices weren’t in vain. Ms. Lara (8th Grade) said.

“When I first heard about this opportunity I felt excited and grateful. The mere idea of having a chance of attending a summer opportunity is a once in a lifetime opportunity and will also expand my knowledge and find my passion to inspire and change the world in my own way” Ms. Herrera (freshman) said.


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.

News, Press





Access Youth Academy has announced its 4th graduating class and their college acceptances. The six students, Anais O.  (UCSD), Chelsie D. (Colorado College), Kevin C. (Denison), Kevin L. (Wesleyan), Sarabi R. (Cal – Berkeley), and Zeke S. (UCSD), joined the Access program in 2009 and through their hard work and determination have collectively leveraged $980,000 in scholarships across their four years in college to help them begin this exciting new chapter in their lives.

Executive Director, Renato Paiva, was immensely proud of this years graduating class having seen them grow and develop into confident, driven and compassionate young adults.

“Every kid deserves an equal opportunity to fulfill their potential and these students are now well on their way to achieving this. They come to Access without many of the advantages some families in the region are blessed with, but through our program and its focus on academic enrichment, health and wellness, leadership and social responsibility, they leave with so much more – an expanded family and support network they can always call on upon.”

“Although we are sad to see them go (with many leaving San Diego for pastures new), we are excited to continue working with them through the next phase of Access’ 12 year promise” Mr. Paiva said.

This is the fourth graduating class from Access Youth Academy and next year will see a number of significant milestones. Not only will the organization celebrate its tenth year of transforming young lives, but also see the first wave of college graduates from tertiary institutions such as Columbia, Amherst, the University of Pennsylvania and five students that went to local Universities such as San Diego State and San Diego Christian College.

All six students were formally recognized for their achievements at the Access Youth Academy 2015 Graduation celebration held on Sunday June 7th, 2015.

rsz_1img_4376Photo (L-R): Scott Barton (Principal, The Preuss School UCSD), Anais O., Sarabi R., Chelsie D., Kevin C., Kevin L., Zeke S., Renato Paiva (Executive Director, Access Youth Academy)

News, Press

Sarabi Featured in the Washington Post

Urban Squash Citizen Tour broadens the reach of the sport and of community service


Sarabi Rodriguez, a rising high school senior from San Diego, right, is one of 22 teens from the Urban Squash Citizenship Tour. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

By Chelsea Janes and Jacqueline Kantor , The Washington Post, All MetSports, July 24 2014

Thousands of miles from home, Sarabi Rodriquez kept her parents updated as she traced United States history from Boston to the nation’s capital. She sent photos posing in New York and of her with the Massachusetts governor. Rodriquez texted from the U.S. Capitol and from a squash match she played with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) .

Her mom responded in Spanish from Rodriquez’s home town of San Diego: “We miss you a lot, but we know you are doing great things.” Rodriquez’s friends sent an Emoji icon of a squash (the vegetable) — after five years in the program, it’s still an ongoing joke — while she was on a nine-day trip across the country thanks to a sport most of her neighborhood thought came in acorn, butternut and spaghetti.

Rodriquez, 16, is one of 22 high school students who went on the National Urban Squash Education Association’s inaugural Urban Squash Citizenship Tour. The students came from communities where squash, a sport typically reserved for prep schools and elite colleges or clubs, is not an option: Harlem, Roxbury (Mass.), South Chicago and in Rodriquez’s case, Logan Heights, in central San Diego.

The association’s member programs recruit students from these areas in middle school and provide them with support on the court and in the classroom. Rodriguez applied to the tour by submitting a video talking about the importance of citizenship and the value of community service. Rodriquez came to the United States from Mexico when she was 4 years old and has had temporary U.S. citizenship.

In Boston, the group met with the founder and CEO of Massachusetts-based SquashBusters and also with Gov. Deval Patrick, who explained his journey from the South Side of Chicago to his office as “improbable.” Rodriquez asked him how to make the journey from the inner-city to political office more probable for students of her background. “Better teachers to inspire students like them,” he said. That’s what Rodriquez got from San Diego’s Access Youth Academy.

She wanted to play sports in middle school, but her parents didn’t have the resources for team or equipment fees. She tried out for Access Youth Academy’s program in seventh grade and despite initial confusion — “My daughter is playing a vegetable,” her mother kept telling friends — she was hooked on the feeling she got on the squash court. Rodriquez’s mind goes blank, she said, and she doesn’t have to think about school or finances or her family — just the ball, the racket and the court.

“I can let it all out,” she said. “All the stress goes away.”

The program was there for her last year, when her family’s already precarious financial situation grew worse. Mentors from the program came to her house and talked with her parents about helping Rodriquez keep her grades up while working, and she was able to get a job at the squash club in San Diego. Some of the members reacted like some of her private school opponents. They were surprised at seeing her in a sport normally reserved for the white and wealthy.

At first, Rodriquez took solace in being able to beat some of the players who gave her odd looks. Then she realized it’s better to get to know the other athletes, rather than see them as an enemy.

“Instead of taking satisfaction in beating her, I got to know her,” Rodriquez said of one club member.

Once you’re on the court, it doesn’t matter who you are or how you got there: a good drive or tight serve or nasty drop shot wins against governors or inner-city kids, alike. The students learned that against a sneakily competitive Patrick.

“He knows his way around the court,” said Elaine Negron, a 16-year-old from New Haven, Conn. “It was surprising, he hit a drop shot on me. I was like ‘I’m so young.’ He said it wasn’t competitive, but I think it was.”

Seeing Patrick on the court, instead of in a setting that was “all professional,” demolished the idea that high-level politicians were inaccessible people in unreachable positions, financial and geographical worlds away.

“When you think of a governor, you think of a high-class, elite person,” Negron said. “But when we met him, he was very down to earth.”

Gillibrand, who played squash at Dartmouth, didn’t take it easy on anyone when the tour reached the Hill on Tuesday at Results the Gym. The students responded in kind, chasing her around the court after drop shots and big serves.

“She’s good,” one of the students whispered to another in the bleachers. “I think she’s better than Deval.”

At one point, Gillibrand collided with Negron as the latter chased down a shot. The senator stopped and apologized — and in her hesitation, the point was lost. Negron smacked a perfect shot back into the corner to raucous laughter and a sigh from Gillibrand. The players were chosen for their commitment to citizenship and public service, but they weren’t deferring to the leaders they met.

They met former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis in Boston, and one student asked about the experience of running for president. The association contingent listened with rapt attention, and so did Patrick, who cupped his ear and leaned toward Dukakis to listen, too.

With Gillibrand, the students asked about the issues most important to her — about sexual assault on college campuses, about women in politics, about student loans.

“Phew, all serious questions,” Gillibrand said as she wiped the sweat from her face and answered the questions after the squash match. “Any lighter ones?”

Easy questions didn’t come, because the students’ commitment to public service was more than just lip service so they could go on the trip.

“I want to meet all these politicians and learn how they approach different problems in society, learn how to contribute — us as citizens — how to fix those problems as well,” Benny Sanquintin said. “Obviously we can’t get to their position right now, so I’m trying to learn ways to help make change, outside government.”

Sanquintin, who will head to the University of Massachusetts this fall, doesn’t plan to play squash in college, but he says his experience in Squash Busters has “taught me a lot of things.”

“I notice that integrity is the most important of all,” he said. “Where I come from, on the squash courts, when it comes to volunteering. That and appreciating everything you get, this opens a lot of doors.”


Renato Paiva Named 2011 Coach of the Year



WASHINGTON, D.C. | OCTOBER 7, 2011 Access Youth Academy’s Renato Paiva was honored as a 2011 Coach of the Year award winner in a Washington, D.C. reception held by the national youth sports organization, Up2Us, and the Congressional Caucus on Youth Sports & Childhood Obesity Task Force.

The Coach of the Year contest is a national nomination process launched by Up2Us to select deserving youth coaches who have inspired kids on and off the field. Renato was chosen out of a nationwide pool for having “transformed the lives of underprivileged inner city children in the San Diego area by teaching them the game of squash and getting them to excel in the sport, and in life.”

In the past year, Access Youth Academy became the first and only urban squash program to compete in the U.S. High School Squash Nationals at Yale University, ranking #11th in the nation (High School Girls’ Team). Academically, Access Youth Academy students boast a collective grade point average of 3.54 out 4.0, highest amongst all urban squash programs nationally.

As part of the awards ceremony, Renato was able to discuss the importance of youth sports programs with several members of Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard and Congressman Brian Bilbray.

“It is a true and humbling honor to be selected as a Coach of the Year,” stated Paiva. “This award is a testament not only to the power of squash, but to Access Youth Academy’s overall efforts to educate and enrich young people’s lives.”

In addition to speaking with members of Congress, Renato met with professional skater and San Diego native, Tony Hawk.

Renato was pleased to have the opportunity to share the mission of Access Youth Academy with many decision makers on the federal level, but was surprised by the selection.

“At Access, we serve forty underprivileged youth with intense squash training, academic sessions and a daily compassion for all our students,” Paiva remarked. “And while it seems like a small scale, we can focus on the needs of each individual student, and the achievements are huge.”

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Access Youth Academy operates on the generosity of community and individual support. Now in its fifth year of operation, the organization will soon see its first group of students graduate from high school.