Academics and squash offer founding students a new choice for college
Most weekday afternoons, Access Youth Academy has students studying on the second floor. Downstairs there is a lot of noise from the squash courts. The state-of-the-art facility on Euclid Avenue in southeast San Diego opened just six months ago, offering after-school tutoring and free tuition in the ancient English sport of squash .
“Why is it called squash? Because the ball is soft,” said Deon Saffery, the Academy’s head of squash. She was recruited from the UK to come to San Diego and teach children from the age of 10 how to play this age-old game. She continued, “If you’re a good player, it’s mental. It’s the experience of having to think on the pitch and use those tactics to be able to win.
Even if you’re not a big gamer, there are advantages. Theresa Joy, 11, admitted she wasn’t a big gamer but really enjoyed the game. She said: “It’s a really safe place where everyone can help and it makes you forget things when you’re in court.”
Theresa is a 6th year student at the nearby KIPP Adelante Preparatory Academy. Adelante is a tuition-free charter school that opened about a year ago in its new location near the MTS Euclid Avenue light rail station. As a public charter school, there is an extended school day, allowing students more time for study and extracurricular activities. Many students learn squash and benefit from tutoring through the Access Youth program.
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Adelante is a Spanish word meaning “forward” or “in progress”. The charter is also a matter of choice. Headteacher Roxanne Cowperthwaite told KPBS News: ‘We want it to be a choice for them. Let them say, “Okay, I want to go to college because that’s the path that will open up for me,” or they have a choice not to go to college.
The Adelante School currently has 370 students who live in the neighborhood or commute from Barrio Logan and downtown San Diego. There is room for nearly a hundred additional students in the program offering strong academics, social-emotional learning, and a physical and mental health curriculum.
The game of squash is intended for the combination of academics and athletics. Squash is not widely played at many colleges and is not as competitive for scholarships as other sports. The idea is to give as many students as possible another option and to highlight their university applications.
“Access Youth Academy is about having the highest standards for our young people,” said Tim Wyant, executive director of the National Urban Squash and Education Association. He continued, “The organization encourages its team members to be the best students, athletes and people they can be, and they rise to that challenge. In urban squash, Access’s results are unmatched.
The Access Youth Academy for tutoring and squash lessons and the new Adelante campus are part of a master plan to redevelop and inject resources into a 60-acre area in southeast San Diego. The plan is partially funded by the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation. The non-profit organization works closely with area residents to build the community they envisioned.
Reginald Jones is the president and CEO of the Jacobs Center. He said, “We hope in this to demonstrate a way of building community that can be modeled in other areas to build the entirety of Southeast San Diego and create a more vibrant place.”
More than 100,000 residents are impacted by the centre’s economic development and community outreach programs.
For now, the Adelante School and the Youth Academic Academy continue to recruit for more students. Theresa Joy is happy with her choice to be a member of both. “I want to be a professional squash player,” the 6th grader said, “but if it’s a job, maybe I’ll be a nurse or a dentist.”