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Youth and Leaders Living Actively (YALLA)

  • Kathryn Caputo
  • Director of Program Development
  • 619-590-3995

Program Description

My team of volunteer college coaches and I support immigrant and refugee youth through the college process in the Greater San Diego area. San Diego receives over 3000 new San Diegans each year attempting to rebuild their lives. Our program assists students with SAT/ACT prep, college search, assistance with applications, editing of essays and personal statements, financial aid education, interview/resume review and scholarship and internship attainment. Our students reside in San Diego County but are originally from all over the world. Most come to this country from war-torn countries to rebuild their lives. Their motivation and value for education is unmatched and it is our honor to guide them on their way to a successful future.

Success Stories

Our students arrive in San Diego having missed whole grades of school because of war and tragedy in their homeland. Moms and Dads have left professional careers and homes behind to seek a safe and better life for their children here in America. Most speak limited or no English and know no one and nothing of American culture and systems. The children enter public schools where their classes, including AP classes, are taught in a language they do not speak and can receive no help from home from non-English speaking parents. The kids are thrilled at the opportunity to gain an education and joyful to reignite their dreams of college and career. They see the American Dream the way we Americans are supposed to see it. Our success stories include students at prestigious Universities like Cal-Berkeley and UCLA who have spoken English for only a few years. Their value and motivation for education are n=unmatched and it is our honor to support them on their way to s.uccessful futures

Best Practices Library

YALLA uses soccer as a hook and college as a goal. Upon arriving in the US the kids may not speak English but they speak soccer! In order to be on our soccer teams our scholar=athletes must commit to our tutoring and academic support programs. We have recreational soccer and six competitive teams, including the only all refugee/immigrant girls club teams in the country. Many of our students have developed other interests by senior year and our senior class includes soccer players, but also class presidents, tennis players, cross-country runners and musicians.

Services Provided

  • Academic enrichment/tutoring/study skills
  • Arts and cultural
  • Career exploration and counseling/internships
  • College admissions guidance and counseling
  • College fairs/campus visits
  • College transition and retention support
  • Community service/service hours
  • Financial aid advising/FAFSA completion
  • Leadership development
  • Mentoring
  • Parent/family services
  • SAT/ACT and other test preparation
  • Scholarships and last-dollar grants
  • Science, tech, engineering, & math (STEM)


Race & Ethnicity

  • American Indian or Native Alaskan: 5%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 30%
  • Other: 60%
  • African American: 5%

Education Level and
Number of Students

  • High School: 50
  • Middle School: 42
  • Elementary School: 45
  • Post-secondary: 0
  • Non-traditional: 0

Populations Served

  • Academically At-risk
  • Academically High-performing
  • ESL Students


  • More than 75%