USD’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences to Develop College Access Initiative for Black Students in the San Diego Region

USD’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences to Develop College Access Initiative for Black Students in the San Diego Region


The School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) at the University of San Diego has received a $1.5 million grant from the San Diego Foundation to develop and launch the Black InGenius Initiative (BiGI)-- a college access and early literacy program for Black students within the San Diego region.

Sixty rising sixth graders will be selected for BiGI every year starting in fall 2023. USD will provide students with consistent academic support delivered by SOLES students and faculty trained in neurodivergent teaching, which is the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in different ways, therefore there is no one "right" way of thinking, learning or behaving.

For students who have completed seven years of participation in BiGI and are accepted to USD, the university will meet 100 percent of the federally demonstrated financial need of the student with a personalized financial assistance package. With continued fundraising, the goal is to have 420 students in the program by the year 2030.

“I am thrilled and honored to partner with the San Diego Foundation and the Black Community Investment Fund to lead this important and groundbreaking work to engage the brains, hearts, and minds of Black children, families, teachers, and school leaders. Culling practices from educational neuroscience, neurodiversity, multisensory structured literacy, and trauma-informed practices, we embrace an asset-based approach that allows us to close the opportunity gap for Black children in San Diego and realize their genius,” said Kimberly White-Smith, EdD, Dean of the School of Leadership and Education Sciences.

As a part of this initiative, USD will also create a “teaching and learning” center for all San Diego educators to train them on how to support the needs of diverse learners.

The grant SOLES received from the San Diego Foundation is from the SDF Black Community Investment Fund (BCIF), which prioritizes and invests in community-led, innovative efforts that increase racial equity and generational wealth for Black San Diegans. BiGI will be modeled after a 31-year-old program at the University of Southern California, the Leslie and William McMorrow Neighborhood Academic Initiative

“For San Diego, like so many other American cities, systemic racism — both explicit and structural — targeting African Americans has deeply impacted generational upward mobility within our Black community,” said Mark Stuart, President and CEO of San Diego Foundation. “This new education initiative will create systemic changes in the way Black students are educated in San Diego.” 

SOLES is committed to academic excellence, innovation, equity and inclusion. This new partnership will work to deepen USD’s role as an Anchor Institution, by strengthening partnerships that empower local students.


Cameran Zech
(619) 260-7448