Student Blog



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.


Student Blog



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.


Student Blog



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

Student Blog


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




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.”

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.

Student Blog

Access on The NUSEA Citizenship Tour, Day 1


access youth academy

Johnny H. – Access Youth Academy Team 5 Student

Day 1 by Johnny

Wednesday – July 15, 2015

When Chrissy mentioned that we would have to write blog posts every night after a day full of citizenship-tour-y things, I figured that I would get the jump on it and write a bit on the flight over. I’ve already learned a few things, and the day hasn’t even begun (it is currently 8:30 AM PST, normally, I’d still be dead to the world.)

My Grandmother is a seasoned traveler who prefers Southwest Airlines. We can trust them to be organized and on time, which is almost always the case. In light of this, when we found out I’d be flying American, she made it her mission to get me to the airport with two hours to spare. This practice proved to be incredibly effective. Upon arrival, I realized that American’s curbside check in wasn’t in service yet, and the line for regular baggage check stretched out the door.

I made my way to one of the two lines, found out it was the wrong one from some frazzled worker, and made my way to the other. I was behind a woman who had gone through a similar event, and proceeded to make small talk with me.

Luckily, Access had trained me for polite small talk, and I answered her questions earnestly, fighting the drowsiness of a sleepless night. I found out she was in her early thirties, and had gotten a degree in electrical engineering. Dissatisfied, she was going back to school to get a degree in medicine. She related to me that she was worried about starting over at such a late age, but I assured her that it’s never too late to start over.

There’s actually a medical term that labels the feeling you get when you realize that all these strangers around you have lives as complex as yours with experiences equally as rich. This was one of those times.

Anyway, the poor woman had three gigantic bags, so I helped her move in the line. Eventually we were split up to check in separately, but not before she warned me about the dangers of pursuing a career in programming. Eye strain, to be specific, which is actually avoidable with corrective glasses (not that I told her this). We then parted for our own destinations. I can’t help but hope that med school turns out to give her what she’s looking for. Lessons learned: Strangers have lives, and change is okay whenever you initiate it.

The woman overseeing the five self check-in kiosks told me to use a charge card. Although I’d prefer to use cash over my emergency debit, I was too nervous to bother another clearly frazzled worker, so I did as I was told (sorry Grandma).

A quick trip through security, where I encountered the first worker who performed calmly under the stress of a busy airport, and I was spat out onto the three-way junction that leads to all of the terminals. My flight was at Gate 29, a straight shot, while Starbucks, which is always a stop for me at the airport, was far off near Gate 37. I had promised my travel partner Kevin Le a drink in return for him grabbing my squash gear, and I always make good. Carrying a sleeping bag and a heavy laptop bag, I made my way there. The trip over took what felt like seven minutes, and I paid for the overpriced food and drinks with plenty of time to spare before I had to be at my gate. A tall mocha for Le, a tall white-chocolate Mocha and a sandwich for me, all for the grand total of 13 dollars with change. Add a two-dollar tip to it, (they were swamped; I always tip a dollar but I felt bad that such a large swarm had only awarded the baristas with maybe 3 dollars in tips,) and 15 dollars had suddenly dissipated from my wallet.

The walk back was impossibly difficult. I had to drink down a bit of both drinks before I could really move, and my hands still walked away burnt. I have a habit of talking to myself whenever I’m: A. in public, and B. alone, and I’m certain the majority of what I said was, “Kevin Le better be thankful. I look like a juggler/waiter and I’m certain this lady is staring at me for talking to myself.” Cue the under-the-eyelash-shy-hello-I-swear-I’m-not-crazy look.

I finally arrived at my terminal, put on my headphones to listen to the Heathers soundtrack, (not over it yet, nope), and counted the number of stickers on the guitar case that belonged to the guy sitting across from me. Time ticked by, until my group was called to board.

Kevin Le hadn’t arrived yet. I texted him frantically, and relayed the same message to Chrissy. I was in full on panic mode, an explosive cocktail one part caffeine, three parts my friend isn’t here yet, and lingered a bit, hoping to buy some time. He eventually told me he missed his flight, which of course made me mad and sad. Le graduated this year, and I was already missing him. A five-hour flight stuck next to him would’ve been great to catch up. Sadly, this wasn’t the case. I sent a few more texts and boarded, and was lucky enough to avoid the middle seat that makes typing near impossible. Lessons Learned: My grandma is always right, and sometimes things don’t work out but that’s okay.

Currently, I’m seated next to a nice family of five, two beside me, and the last three behind. I scored on an aisle seat (I prefer window, but I don’t mind), next to the father of the family (I hope he’s not reading this as I type it, but I’ll put this here in case he is.) He has an English accent of some sort. I can’t place the region, but it’s sort of like buttermilk and soft, no harsh syllables. His kid is nice as well, a bit excitable, but energetic, which is a very good thing. I’m settled with a Dr. Pepper (yay, caffeine!) and ready for 4 more hours of trying to entertain myself.

I’ll continue the blog post later tonight, after we all retire to our rooms. This somehow ended up being three pages long even though the day had only began. My apologies in advanced. Lessons Learned: Accents will always be cool, and I need to get better at summaries.

I learned on the taxi ride from JFK that we would actually be spending the night with a host family in Harlem. The middle brother of the family, Nick Little, would be accompanying us on the trip as well.

He was in the taxi with myself, and the ride was awkward in every way it could’ve been. I didn’t sense any hostility, so I blamed it on shared nerves. He opened up more with a few question about living in New York and his schooling. He’s an incoming college freshman who has a talent and passion for engineering and programming.

His house was shocking to me. My Grandma is strict about things being in order, but the Littles permitted a bit of a mess. It wasn’t, dirty, but warm in a way. The clutter I expected actually granted a sense of established security. Lesson Learned: Different can be just as good.

Nick’s mom, a lovely woman who hailed from an island in the Caribbean, treated us to some homemade pizza. It was every bit as delicious as you expected a homemade New York pizza to be. Afterwards, we just played video games, hung out in his room, and waited for Kevin Le to arrive.

Unfortunately for all of us, Kevin didn’t make it to his house until about 1:30 in the morning. His flight in Chicago was delayed for two hours because the Captain didn’t show up, which seemed ridiculous to all of us. Delirious on sleep deprivation, we hit the sack at about 2:00 am.

I can remember the excitement building for the next day. The tour was almost upon us, and I was in New York City, the place I knew my future would take me. Dazzling lights, busy life, and Broadway. Big dreams, but closer than ever in that moment.

Student Blog

Access on the NUSEA Citizenship Tour, Day 3


Phillies Game

The students of The NUSEA Citizenship Tour at a Phillies game
Photo Courtesy of NUSEA

Day #3 July 18, 2015

Today was such a great day considering the fact that we moved from city to city. It was an amazing experience to see the Big Apple and travel to Liberty Island to see the iconic Statue of Liberty in person. Traveling to Ellis Island was incredible to see the environment where all the immigrants lived in during the 1800s when they came to pursue the great American Dream.

Afterwards, drove 2 hours down to Philadelphia, where we watched a baseball game of the Phillies and the Miami Marlins with the executive director of SquashSmarts, Steven. Steven was so kind and generous to rent out a VIP suite for all of us to watch the game and it was such an wonderful opportunity to watch the game from the suite. He offered so much food to us, such as hot dog, pizza, and cheesesteak sandwiches. My first time eating a cheesesteak sandwich in Philadelphia was amazing! Overall, Steve was so kind to us and I notice that Philadelphia is truly the City of Brotherly Love because everyone was so nice and welcoming. It was a complete shift from the busy, assertive New Yorker life to the welcoming and appreciative Philly life.

We then went to the SquashSmarts facility to play some late night squash at 10:30 PM.
We got to play some doubles matches for several hours. It was so much fun and I’m having a blast so far in this trip.

Student Blog

Access on The NUSEA Citizenship Tour


The First Day on The NUSEA Citizenship Tour By Kevin L.

Thursday July 16th, 2015

After traveling into NYC at 2 in the morning, I had the opportunity to stay in Harlem. The neighborhood of Harlem is very quiet and calm and I enjoyed being around the area. Johnny (an Access Student), Nick (our host) and I then went to the meeting spot of our tour, and from there we met so many different student athletes from all over the country. We were able to practice with them at the Harvard Club, which is one of the most prestigious squash clubs around the country. Afterwards we had the chance to hear from George Polsky, executive director of StreetSquash on his story on how he started the squash program. Then we listened to David Segal, a Pulitzer Prize journalist winner, on his story of how he got into Journalism and what he does for his career.
Afterwards, we showered and changed into our casual clothes and ate pizza at Bryant Park, where we did icebreakers and got to know each other. Tim Wyant had a chat with us about the NUSEA program and we had a great discussion about urban squash and its potential in the future.

I had so much fun on my first day at the trip and it’s barely getting started. It feels good to be back in the New York area and walking around Times Square is very mesmerizing.

Student Blog

College Update: Perla Rubi, Junior at Bowdoin University

Access College Update: Perla Rubi
“This summer I have been interning at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. I was part of the Physician Scientist Training Program in high school and they gave me the opportunity as an undergraduate to intern at one of Canada’s most research-intensive hospitals. I am working in Dr. Margot Taylor’s lab in the Department of Neurosciences and Mental Health. I am working on a project that is looking at brain connectivity of adults and children with autism when performing a theory of mind task. Toronto has been amazing so far! I got the chance to watch some squash pros in the Pan-American games. I even caught one of the balls when it went over the glass. Toronto is such a diverse city and there is always something to do. I had never considered myself much of a city girl until now”