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The Netter Center for Community Partnerships held its 12th annual ABCS Summit on Monday.

Photo: Patrick Zancolli

Coinciding with the first day of advanced registration for fall 2015, a summit held on Monday highlighted unique course options for Penn students.

The Netter Center for Community Partnerships held its 12th annual ABCS Summit at the Shotel Dubin Auditorium in Penn Hillel. “The Summit is a way to showcase all ABCS work to the entire university,” ABCS Coordinator Janee Franklin said.

ABCS, or academically based community service, courses are classes offered across the different schools at Penn for credit that integrate a service component into the academics. ABCS courses are “a way to enhance [students’] education,” Franklin said, as they prompt the question, “How do I use my college education to make a difference in the world?”

The afternoon began with an open-house showcase of ABCS courses presented by students and staff. At the beginning and end of the Summit, students presented “more in-depth snapshots” of research they did as part of their ABCS courses, Franklin said. The Netter Center brought back its ABCS Panel to the Summit this year. The panel presented how the classes have impacted the community and evaluated ways to improve the program.

College sophomore Nicole Ventrone presented a showcase on URBS 323, “Tutoring in Schools: Theory and Practice.” The course is taught by Jackie Kasher, and it focuses on urban tutoring, especially literacy, Ventrone said. The class meets once a week in the evening for discussion, and students volunteer as tutors in Lea Elementary School twice a week. Ventrone said she was happy with her tutoring experience.

“We’re really lucky that the teachers at Lea are really open to us working with their students,” she said. ABCS courses like URBS 323 really “[show] Penn’s involvement with the community,” Ventrone said.

Nursing juniors Chantal Low and Sophie Mintz, TAs of NURS 299, presented their course at the Summit as well. Low and Mitz played an instrumental role in bringing NURS 299 to ABCS. Before the class existed, they volunteered on their own and later brought their volunteer experience to ABCS to help create a new opportunity for nursing students.

“Coming to Penn, I was dying to take these ABCS classes,” Mintz said. Both her and Low expressed the importance of health care students to spend time in the community to enhance their science knowledge. “It is part of our responsibility as nurses and Penn students to reach out and share our knowledge of science with the community,” Mintz added.

ABCS offerings are not limited to strictly classroom work. Nursing senior Erin Held, for example, shared her experience working with MUSC 018, “Music & Social Change,” as part of her work-study grant. In the program, Penn students go into Lea Elementary School and West Philly High School four times a week and work with local students in music programs such as chorus, band, and orchestra. The best part about her experience with MUSC 018 has been “seeing the kids have something they enjoy,” Held said.

ABCS courses have even inspired students to create their own organizations to serve the West Philly community. College sophomores Liza Lansing and Jessica Abrams created “Swipe Out Hunger” as a result of their experience in Ira Harkavy’s course, URBS 178. “Swipe Out Hunger” addresses the problem of food insecurity in West Philadelphia. Since so many kids are on required meal plans here at Penn and their swipes go to waste, Lansing and Abrams designed this program to allow students to use unwanted meal swipes to help solve this problem. “We could not have done this without the help of Dr. Harkavy,” Lansing said. “Basically he sat down with us and said ‘what’s mine is yours,’” in terms of resources.

“I hope students will consider them during advanced registration,” Franklin said.

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