University of Pennsylvania Receives Highest Presidential Recognition for Community Service

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Media Contact:Julie McWilliams | | 215-898-1422March 12, 2012

WASHINGTON – The Corporation for National and Community Service and the U.S. Department of Education awarded the University of Pennsylvania with the Presidential Award in the 2012 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for its commitment to bettering the community through community service and service learning.

Penn was among five higher-education institutions that received the Presidential Award, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to community service.  The universities were honored at the annual American Council on Education meeting in Los Angeles.

Inspired by the thousands of college students who traveled across the country to support relief efforts along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, the initiative celebrates the transformative power and volunteer spirit that exists within the higher-education community.

"Benjamin Franklin described the purpose of the University of Pennsylvania, the college he founded, as educating students with 'An inclination join'd with an Ability to serve mankind, one's Country, Friends and Family,’ said Ira Harkavy, Penn associate vice president and founding director of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships.  “Franklin’s spirit and approach to education is more alive now at Penn than ever before with President Amy Gutmann’s Penn Compact, her strategic vision for moving the University from excellence to eminence. Local engagement is not only a core tenet of the Penn Compact, but it is also an integral part of the University’s mission now and into the future.”

Penn received the Presidential Award for its support of Summer Learning, which provides a safe, healthy environment for academic enrichment during summer breaks to help students retain what they learned during the academic year.  Penn’s summer-learning programs include math and literacy-based tutoring, camps encouraging exploration of new fields of learning and community service-based high school internships.

The University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science administers a free science, technology and engineering camp geared toward middle school students, targeting underrepresented minorities and girls.  The University also engages local high school students in the camps to serve as mentors to their young counterparts.  

Penn students also serve West Philadelphia elementary students with literacy and math-based programming through Freedom School, a six-week summer program.  Local high school students, who are being mentored by Penn students, help lead the classrooms and engage kids in project-based learning involving art, dance, cooking and field trips.

“Through service, the University of Pennsylvania is creating the next generation of leaders by challenging students to tackle tough issues and create positive impacts in the community,” said Robert Velasco, acting CEO of CNCS. “We applaud the Honor Roll schools, their faculty and students for their commitment to make service a priority in and out of the classroom. Together, service and learning increase civic engagement while fostering social innovation among students, empowering them to solve challenges within their communities.”

The Corporation for National and Community Service, which administers the Honor Roll, admitted a total of 642 colleges and universities for their impact on issues from literacy and neighborhood revitalization to supporting at-risk youth.

“Preparing students to participate in our democracy and providing them with opportunities to take on local and global issues in their course work are as central to the mission of education as boosting college completion and closing the achievement gap,” said Eduardo Ochoa, the U.S. Department of Education’s assistant secretary for postsecondary education.  “The Honor Roll schools should be proud of their work to elevate the role of service-learning on their campuses.  Galvanizing their students to become involved in projects that address pressing concerns and enrich their academic experience has a lasting impact – both in the communities in which they work and on their own sense of purpose as citizens of the world. I hope we’ll see more and more colleges and universities following their lead.”

The Corporation for National and Community Service oversees the Honor Roll in collaboration with the U.S. Departments of Education and Housing and Urban Development, Campus Compact and the American Council on Education. Honorees are chosen based on a series of selection factors, including the scope and innovation of service projects, the extent to which service-learning is embedded in the curriculum, the school’s commitment to long-term campus-community partnerships, and measurable community outcomes as a result of the service. A full list of recipients and descriptions of their service is available at Recipients of the Presidential Awards were honored in four categories General Community Service, Early Childhood Education, Promise Neighborhoods Model, and Summer Learning.