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August 4, 2014

ACCESS Inc. was founded in 1967 with a mission to address the needs of San Diego’s most vulnerable youth, and help them achieve self-sufficiency and economic independence. ACCESS offers a variety of programs serving different youth populations, including transition age, at-risk youth, recent or unassimilated immigrants, and victims of domestic violence, trafficking or other forms of exploitation. The programs provide counseling, education, case management, legal assistance, career exploration and placement services to assist them to achieve self-sufficiency and economic independence. 

SDWP partners with four ACCESS programs, serving youth who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out of high school, youth transitioning from the judicial system, and foster youth. Youth are served through specifically designed resources tailored to their chosen career path, resulting in extremely high success rates in each program.

ACCESS’ Metro and East County Youth programs provide education, career exploration, work-readiness and job training to help youth transition into adulthood and their careers. The East County program serves students who have dropped out of high school. The Metro program focuses on in-school youth transitioning out of the judicial system or youth who have dropped out of school and have multiple barriers (ie., offender, homeless, unemployed).  Both groups are offered customized education and career pathway programs through a wide range of resources and services, including GED preparation, leadership development, paid work experiences, occupational skills training and more. The program blends classroom education, field trips and job shadowing to encourage youth to create a lasting connection to his or her chosen career path. As ACCESS puts it, “Engagement breeds success!”

The Independent Living Skills (ILS) Works program is a two-tiered system serving foster youth. Like ACCESS’ Metro and East County Youth programs, ILS provides a full range of resources from basic education, career exploration, job training, and assistance with post-secondary education or training programs. Many of their foster youth enroll directly into community college after completing their basic education but lack the soft skills needed to succeed. To bridge this gap, ILS provides skills workshops and encourages participation in activities to build skills and confidence. Youth needing additional support transition into Tier 2 of the program provided through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) to further improve their employability and self-sufficiency. Case managers stay with youth through both tiers of the program, providing customized plans and support for each participant.

Through ACCESS, San Pasqual Academy has provided workforce development training on campus through the Youth Empowerment Services (YES) program for more than 12 years. The collaboration has proved exceptionally successful at defining students’ desired career paths and cultivating plans to successfully reach their career goals. All WIA-eligible students are enrolled in the program, which offers individualized case management, workshops, elective classes, internships, job shadowing, career fairs, field trips and much more. Sandra Bauler, an SDWP employer contract specialist, works directly with the students on their career and personal development.

“We see young people at the start of the program who have never thought much about careers or even about getting a job,” says Bob Stewart, ACCESS Inc. CEO. “They go through one or two career academies and all of a sudden they get it. There are some really cool careers out there — healthccare, computers, hospitality, conservation and others — for which they can qualify if they first finish high school. That’s the ‘ah-ha!’ moment when they see how rewarding a career job could be, both personally and financially; and then they make the connection with finishing school.”

For more information about ACCESS Inc., visit

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