University of San Diego creates academic pathway program for Black youth

The program will kick off in the fall of 2023.

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The University of San Diego has announced a new initiative aimed to uplift Black youth, CBS 8 reports. 

As part of a $1.5 million grant from the San Diego Foundation, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) at the University of San Diego launched the Black InGenius Initiative (BiGI), which provides early literacy and college access for Black students in San Diego, according to the university’s news release.

University of San Diego
University of San Diego / AdobeStock

Starting in the fall of 2023, BiGI will select 60 sixth graders annually from the San Diego region for the pathway program. BiGI is modeled after the Leslie and William McMorrow Neighborhood Academic Initiative, a long-running college prep program at the University of Southern California. 

Through BiGI, Black students are thoughtfully engaged and recognized, mental health services are provided for families, and supporting educations by establishing a Center of Teaching.

“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,” said Dean Kimberly White-Smith, Ed.D. of the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, via the news release. 

The goal of the pathway program is to encourage and foster a learning environment where educators can “leverage what they know in order to really experience the genius of African-American students and allow them to be full participants in their educational experience,” White-Smith said, as reported by CBS 8.

The program will “engage the brains, hearts, and minds of Black children, families, teachers, and school leaders,” White-Smith said.

According to USD, the goal is to have 420 students in the program by the year 2030.

President and CEO of San Diego Foundation Mark Stuart stated that systemic racism “has deeply impacted generational upward mobility within our Black community.”

“This new education initiative will create systemic changes in the way Black students are educated in San Diego,” Stuart added. 

White-Smith said part of the BiGI initiative is to close the achievement gap, pointing to how African-American students are “three times more likely to be expelled from school or kicked out of the classroom than their peers,” she told CBS 8. 

USD will cover 100% of financial aid for students accepted into BiGi. 

“Our goal is to create an ecosystem that is deeply rooted,” said Novien Yarber, Ph.D., who is assisting USD’s development of BiGI.

“We’re going to have summer programs, we’re going to have Saturday programs and the students that are chosen to become part of the cohort will be experiencing this starting from sixth grade all the way up through 12th grade,” said White-Smith.

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