Riverside Community College District Secures $1 Million Grant to Launch Groundbreaking Neurodiversity Program

Feb 16

The Riverside Community College District (RCCD) is proud to announce the approval of a $1 million grant by the Inland Empire Regional K-16 Education Collaborative to develop the Promoting Achievable College Transitions (PACT) program. This transformative initiative aims to provide neurodiverse students across the region with a dedicated academic pathway at colleges throughout the District.

A neurodiverse student is someone who has a neurological condition or difference that affects their learning style, social interactions, and/or behavior. Neurodiversity encompasses a range of conditions, including but not limited to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, dyspraxia, Tourette syndrome, and others. Neurodiverse students often have unique strengths and challenges compared to neurotypical students, and they may require accommodations or support to thrive academically and socially. This is where the PACT program becomes relevant.

The PACT program, slated to unfold over the next three years, represents a pivotal opportunity for stakeholders within the District and the wider community to spearhead innovative and sustainable pathways. By tailoring resources specifically for neurodiverse students, RCCD seeks to foster an inclusive environment that invites a whole new community of learners to embark on their educational journey.

This funding will bolster a district-wide effort to design and implement specialized programs and services tailored to students with autism spectrum disorder and/or ADHD. Among its key components is the creation of a noncredit pathway designed to facilitate college transitions and enhance retention rates for neurodiverse students. Furthermore, the grant will allocate resources to support degree completion and facilitate smooth transfers to institutions such as the University of California, Riverside (UCR) and other four-year universities.

A significant portion of the grant will be dedicated to expanding personnel for disability services across each college within the district. This includes the recruitment of peer mentors, curriculum development initiatives, and professional development opportunities for faculty and staff members engaged in supporting the program's objectives.

RCCD is committed to fostering strong collaborations with local school districts, including the Riverside Unified School District (RUSD), to ensure seamless transitions for students entering the community college system. By leveraging partnerships with entities such as the Department of Rehabilitation, America's Job Center of Riverside County, and UCR's Student Disability Resource Center, the PACT program aims to provide comprehensive support to neurodiverse students at every stage of their academic journey.

Michael Peterson, RCCD Executive Director for Adult Education and Community Initiatives, expressed his enthusiasm for the PACT program, stating, "With 4.5% of all 8-year-olds in California being identified as being on the autism spectrum, there’s a clear current and upcoming need for this kind of programming.”

Additionally, with national high school estimates showing that 68% of young adults on the autism spectrum do not pursue any postsecondary education at all, despite their capabilities, and that those who do enroll in college still have retention and completion rates far below those of their peers, there's a clear need for this work to be done.

Peterson added, “The excitement and engagement we’re seeing from our partners in the community seem to confirm that. We intend to meet these needs in new and innovative ways and to build something very special.”

This grant marks a significant milestone in RCCD’s Extended Learning’s ongoing commitment to fostering inclusivity and equity within the educational landscape. The PACT program will not only empower neurodiverse students to thrive academically but will also pave the way for greater collaboration and innovation within our community.


LEARN MORE about Autism Spectrum Disorder in California.

READ MORE about students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their first-year college experiences.