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Project Access Staff Retreat - The Innovation Games


On Friday, August 18, tributes from Districts all over SoCal, Arizona, and Colorado assembled at the The Outlets at Orange for the Annual Staff Retreat titled The Innovation Games. Our hosts from the Capitol, Reggie Managé (Regional Manager, James Le) and Humana Resoursa (Human Resources, Allison Stanley) rode in to greet the troops in style.



The Districts were handed a packet of instructions, an envelope of money, and a set of rules to guide them through their journey in the arena. And they were off, racing against the other Districts in the hopes of being crowned the winners of the Innovation Games! Unlike the Hunger Games, no one was killed in the process, but lots of fun was to be had! Tributes were challenged to a scavenger hunt with tasks such as rock climbing, eating large amounts of cotton candy, finding hidden items, forming human pretzels while eating pretzels, and much more.

Once the time was up, the Districts turned in their packets to Reggie Managé and brainstormed how we could be more innovative at Project Access. Our staff being as amazing as they are, came up with a lot of ideas on how to work better as an organization, be more connected together as staff, and even make our processes more efficient.

Then we all came together for lunch at Dave and Busters…which of course turned into an impromptu Karaoke party! Even our CEO & President, Kristin Byrnes, serenaded us with her angelic voice! And no party is complete without the Cupid Shuffle! (Sorry, photos of these were lost in the process!)

If you can believe it, we played even MORE games still! Staff were given D&B cards with points to try to earn as many tickets as they can at the arcade. Each 100 tickets earned was redeemable for 1 raffle ticket for raffle prizes!

You must be dying to know who won the Innovation Games, so were we!!! Here are the results:

Coming in at 3rd place….


Second best…


And the winners of the Innovation Games…


Lastly, staff who had been with the company for 5+ years were recognized for all of their hard work and dedication to Project Access.

It was a fabulous day! We laughed, we danced, we sang, and we bonded! We all forged new friendships with staff who had been with the company for 10 years, all the way to staff who had just started 3 days prior. And that’s what makes us such a great team!

Happy Innovation Games, and May the Odds be Ever in Your Favor!

Annual Project Access Teen Conference at PBS SoCaL Studios


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More than 40 Orange and Los Angeles County teens living in low-income housing communities will be on set this Friday, Aug. 15 at the PBS SoCaL studios in Costa Mesa to participate in the 8th Annual Project Access Teen Conference. 

Among the activities planned for them at the “Road Trip to Your Passion” event, teens will learn about working in a television studio and about careers in broadcast and media.

Later they will have an opportunity to speak with professionals in a variety of other fields, including representatives from Athletes First, Taco Bell and Western Digital, to learn how they began their careers.

Also participating are make-up artist Tiffany Shibazaki and law firm Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth, represented by Project Access board member Mark Skaist, who is a partner and Co-Chair of its Corporate and Securities Practice.

In addition to question and answer sessions, the teens will be using electronic tablets to facilitate the learning experience.

Additionally, the teens will be videotaped for inclusion in two public television initiatives highlighting Project Access and its programs. The PBS SoCaL Community Champions project recognizes individuals and/or organizations that make an extraordinary impact on the lives of others through their everyday efforts, within the diverse Southern California communities.   

The American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen project is a long-term public media commitment supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to help communities implement solutions to the high school dropout crisis.

The teen conference is a component of the Education for Youth initiative of nonprofit Project Access, which strives to be the leading provider of vital health, education and employment services for families, children and seniors living in low-income housing communities.  Its goal is to help keep family members employed, children in school and seniors active.

Other event sponsors include Boomers, Bruxie, Chick-fil-A, K1 Speed and Knott’s Berry Farm.

“We are pleased to provide this important educational program for the teens living in low-income housing communities with Project Access Resource Centers in Orange and Los Angeles County” said CEO Kristin Byrnes. “It’s our goal to help them prepare to succeed as young adults.”

Project Access serves nearly 11,000 individuals at over 50 properties in California and Colorado and is expanding to multiple cities throughout the western region, including sites in Arizona.

More information is available at

Project Access Youth Open Their Own Restaurants


Theme based learning in After-School Programs is one of the most effective ways to engage youth during the summer months. Project Access staff at Valley Palms Apartments in San Jose, CA developed a unique summer program that kept youth engaged and helped develop important skills.

During a three week program, 15 Valley Palms youth got the opportunity to participate in a healthy cooking and nutrition course. The aim of the program was to have youth explore healthy options for the conventional foods that they eat daily. Fruit infused water and homemade veggie burgers are examples of some of the healthy and delicious recipes youth experimented with. Staff took it a step further with this program and gave youth a chance to work in groups to design their own restaurants, inspired by the foods they cooked. This project focused on important skills, such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.

The highlight of this program was that it culminated into a fantastic parent-engagement event. Youth were eager to share their restaurants and healthy recipes with their parents. On the final day of the program, parents visited a “restaurant expo” to see all the hard work the youth put into this project. Learning new ways to incorporate healthy foods into daily meals is one of the fantastic ways we help keep residents healthy and thriving! 

“Project Access helped me learn about healthy foods and they taste yummy!” - youth resident, 8 years old





Staff Spotlight - Kelsey Johnson


Bumble Bee CostumeName: Kelsey Johnson

What are you most looking forward to at your new position?: Developing relationships with the residents in order to meet their specific needs and running my own After-School Program

What do you do for yourself? (for fun/hobbies/side business/etc): I like to spend as much time as I can in nature. I especially love the redwoods so feel very fortunate that I live so close to the Santa Cruz Mountains and can go hiking anytime that I want. I am looking forward to getting my own dog within the next year that I can go hiking with.

Are you ready for a Zombie Apocalypse? If there is a zombie apocalypse, I am going straight to my grandmother’s house which is fortunately down the street. She has a secure basement and her garage is stacked to the ceilings with canned foods. So yes, I am more than prepared! ;)

What are your top 5 favorite movies? Star Wars Trilogy (we’ll count this as one), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, True Romance, The Lion King* and Homeward Bound* (*for nostalgic reasons)

What is the best costume you’ve ever worn for Halloween (bonus points if you have a picture!)?: a bumble bee outfit my mom made from a leotard and some yellow and black dot underwear

You Know You Work at Project Access When...


1.    You’re part of a spontaneous wave during staff meetings.


We take our waves very seriously.

2.    You come to staff meetings with your game face on- we are a very competitive bunch.


Esther, Ivonne, Yadira, and Daniel concentrate on their science related project. This may not have even been a competition, but it definitely turned into one.

3.    You get teary eyed hearing a success story at a staff meeting.


This box is always close by.

4.    You are constantly seeking donations.


Employees at Mazda held a Toy Drive for the holidays.

5.    You started using Gill Sans MT font everywhere and you can recognize it anywhere.


Times New Roman, psht! You ain’t got nothin’ on Gill Sans MT!

6.    Distance is not a factor in having good relationships with co-workers.


Nadia from Anaheim and Mikeyonna from Fontana find time to catch up during our monthly meetings. We're also all just a Skype/phone call away from each other!

7.    You choose restaurants based on James’ Yelp reviews or at least asked him for a recommendation.


Seriously, he’s like Yelp royalty.

8.    When you go to the Newport Beach corporate office, chances are you'll be matching with somebody.


Teresa, Kristin, and Claudia donning the fabulous coral color and unintentionally matching.

9.    On your birthday you feel super loved, and you eat a lot of cake!


Cake, cake, cake, cake, cake.

10.    You have improved the vocabulary of friends and loved ones around you, and have added terms such as ‘partnering,’ ‘full-spectrum,’ ‘holistic,’ and ‘social impact’ to their everyday lives.


You can’t help but picture Sara when you hear these words either.

11.    You say the word community an excess of 25 times a day


When you don’t use the word community, you’re looking for the next opportunity to use it in a sentence. Community.

12.    You have been described as flexible.


And you actually are- look at this makeshift office!

13.    You make an effort to eat healthier foods at staff meetings, especially when Sara is involved.


Unless it’s your birthday. Then please refer to #9.

14.    You probably have some hidden talent that has come in handy at work.

bf15a talent2

Like some truly amazing baking courtesy of Nathan or awesome photography skills courtesy of Miriam.

15.    You’ve gotten a chance to do a lot of really cool things.


Like bake your own bread for your holiday party!

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Or ride a tractor


Or learn how to paint!


Did we leave something off? Sound off in our comments sections to add to our "You Know You Work at Project Access When" list

Project Access Ballet Classes on Pointe




Project Access Service Coordinators are tasked with creating programs that appeal to the needs of their residents. Some communities thrive on Zumba classes, others are more interested in health screenings and nutrition classes. At our Family Resource Center at Tara Village Apartments in Cypress, CA, Service Coordinator Hannah Ghim had the opportunity to create a unique class for her residents.

During a woman’s exercise program, one adult resident voiced her interest in creating an onsite ballet class for children. She studied ballet extensively, but she felt like she has no place to exercise those talents after becoming a mother and a homemaker. We encouraged her to conceptualize the class, and got the word out to interested residents. Soon, we had a small gaggle of preschoolers donning their first pairs of pink leotards and tiny tutus!  

The class has an average of seven 3-6 year old ballerinas. The girls come primed in fluffy hair bows and braids. Moms, dads, and grandparents sit in the back of the classroom laughing with each other and taking rapid-fire photos of their little girls.

A success story that has come out of the ballet class was a young girl who had trouble relating with other girls her age. Her grandpa shared his sadness in seeing his little granddaughter without many friends. In ballet, she is encouraged to work with partners and express herself through dance. Her growing confidence has been remarkable.

The ballerinas will dance their tutus off all summer long. Building up confidence and working on their form will surely give these adorable dancers memories that will last them a long time.

Project Access Board Member Joe Litten's Virtual Swim


Our board member Joe Litten set up a virtual swim across the English Channel to fundraise for Project Access. If you haven't been following along with his progress, be sure to check it out here:

We appreciate Joe's creativity in raising dollars (over $4000 with more to possibly roll in) to help our children, families, and seniors. Here is a snippet of one of the wildly creative videos Joe starred in:

Staff Spotlight - Tracy Lewis



Name: Tracy Lewis

What are you most looking forward to at your new position?: Really being able to improve the lives of our seniors and residents

What do you do for yourself? (for fun/hobbies/side business/etc): Hanging out with friends and family, playing with my dog, travel, going to the beach, exercising

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?: Recently, my iPhone

How many states have you visited?: Around 20 states

If you could meet anyone from the past or present, who would it be? Obama

Project Access and Summer Learning


To succeed in school and life, children and young adults need ongoing opportunities to learn and practice essential skills. This is especially true during the summer months.

Many Americans have a wonderful image of summer as a carefree, happy time when "kids can be kids,” and take for granted the prospect of enriching experiences such as summer camps, time with family, and trips to museums, parks, and libraries.

Unfortunately, some youth face anything but idyllic summer months. When the school doors close, many children struggle to access educational opportunities, as well as basic needs such as healthy meals and adequate adult supervision.

Did You Know?

  • All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer (White, 1906; Heyns, 1978; Entwisle & Alexander 1992; Cooper, 1996; Downey et al, 2004). 

  • Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains (Cooper, 1996). 

  • More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college (Alexander et al, 2007). 

  • Children lose more than academic knowledge over the summer. Most children—particularly children at high risk of obesity—gain weight more rapidly when they are out of school during summer break (Von Hippel et al, 2007). 

  • Parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do (Duffett et al, 2004).
Project Access continues learning long after our youth wrap up their final day at school. In fact, our sites transition our After-School Programs into Summer Programs where youth can participate in meaningful activities to keep them engaged. In addition, we offer a safe haven for our youth during the summer months when they may be exposed to riskier behaviors. We also partner with food banks and other agencies to offer summer meals. All of these efforts ensure our youth stay on track and out of trouble during the summer.

Here are some photos of a recent summer kick off event at our Family Resource Center at Pradera Apartments in Anaheim, CA. Residents enjoyed carnival games that were led by youth and parents had an opportunity to learn more about what Project Access offers during the summer.

Staff Trained on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People


At Project Access, we are always looking for new ways to better ourselves and grow. On a monthly basis, we engage in trainings and workshops that help us become better Service Coordinators for our residents, and in this case better and more effective people. 

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey has become a regular part of our staff development. A team of 5 staff members called "The Fab 5" have taken on the role of 7 Habits trainers for the rest of the staff. Each month, they tackle one habit and present their findings to the rest of the group. The habits teach you to take responsibility for the things in your life that you have control of. They touch on topics such as time management, creating your own mission statement, and being proactive. 

fab5“The Fab 5”- From left to right: Liz M., Hannah G., Brenda R., Veronica A., Miriam M., and PA the Parrot

Since we like to keep things fun here at Project Access, "The Fab 5" are always finding new and interactive ways to engage the group during trainings. The use of video skits is one such way we keep it interesting. This clip shows the different ways that a Service Coordinator can react to something that is beyond their control.

Staff have found creative ways to apply the 7 Habits to their work as well as their programs. For example, at Woodbury Walk apartments, our After School Program has created a mission statement for their classroom based on Habit 3: Begin With the End in Mind. Covey explains that people are more invested when they are involved in creating the goals of their organization. The kids feel that they are more invested in the rules of the class after they have had a hand in creating them. Their mission statement reads: “I pledge to always be nice, be responsible, ready, and respectful. I will help others. I will include everyone and share. I will keep calm. I promise this to the class.”

irv missionstatement

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