October 27, 2022 – San Diego, CA – San Diego Foundation announced today a new partnership with University of San Diego (USD) and a $1.5 million grant to its School of Leadership and Education Sciences to prepare more Black secondary students for college, fulfill their college financial needs, and create a teaching and learning center focused on supporting neurodivergent students for all San Diego educators.

The Black InGenius Initiative (BiGi) at University of San Diego will be a college access and early literacy program annually serving a cohort of 60 Black students starting in fall 2023. Each year, a new 6th grade cohort will be added to the program, with 420 students anticipated to participate by 2030.

For students who complete seven years of participation in BiGI (6th – 12th grade) 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.

“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.”

“I am thrilled and honored to partner with 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,” said Kimberly White-Smith, Ed.D., Dean of the School of Leadership and Education Sciences. “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.”

As a part of the initiative, USD will provide students with consistent academic support delivered by faculty and students trained in neurodivergent teaching, or the idea that since people experience and interact with the world around them in different ways, there is no one “right” way of thinking, learning or behaving.

Currently, education programs at colleges and universities do not address neurodiversity, leaving many San Diego teachers without the tools needed to support diverse learners. This lack of resources for teachers leaves neurodivergent Black students vulnerable to racism and ableism, and often results in poor academic performance and behavioral problems.

To train educators in neurodivergent teaching, USD will also create a “teaching and learning” center for all San Diego educators with adaptive technologies and support for diverse learners. The goal is to ensure that no child should be discarded as troubled or incapable of learning and that they are viewed as an asset to their community.

The grant is from the San Diego Foundation 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. The initiative with USD addresses education, one of four pillars of the BCIF that also include employment, entrepreneurship and housing.

Two-Year Anniversary of BCIF

During the past year, the SDF Black Community Investment Fund has:

  • Helped nearly 40 Black families buy their first homes and build generational wealth through the San Diego Black Homebuyers Program, a partnership with Urban League of San Diego County and LISC San Diego.
  • Granted $500,000 to the County of San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce for the Urban Business Resource Center that has so far helped nearly 100 Black entrepreneurs start and build up their businesses.
  • Worked with San Diego Workforce Partnership and Neighborhood House Association to provide workforce training in healthcare, IT and construction to 100 people so they can grow their income potential with high-paying local jobs.
  • Grew the number of Black students who received scholarship support for their higher education and partnered with four local Black sororities to provide $75,000 in matching grants for student scholarships.

The Black Community Investment Fund was co-founded by San Diego Foundation and the County of San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce and seeded with a $1 million from San Diego Foundation, $250,000 from San Diego Gas & Electric, $75,000 from Wells Fargo and $25,000 from Cox Communications in fall 2020. Additional funders include Bank of America with $425,000.

To learn more about the Black Community Investment Fund or to make a donation, visit SDFoundation.org/BCIF.

About San Diego Foundation

San Diego Foundation inspires enduring philanthropy and enables community solutions to improve the quality of life in our region. Our strategic priorities include advancing racial and social justice, fostering equity of opportunity, building resilient communities, and delivering world-class philanthropy to realize our vision of just, equitable and resilient communities. The Racial & Social Justice Initiative supports policies and programs that seek to eradicate systemic discrimination. For more than 47 years, SDF and its donors have granted more than $1.4 billion to support nonprofit organizations strengthening our community. Learn more at SDFoundation.org.


Lorena Nava Ruggero, The San Diego Foundation, lruggero@sdfoundation.org, 619-814-1365