For its commitment to service learning in the past year, Penn has received a Presidential Award of the 2012 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

Penn was one of five higher education institutions to receive the Presidential Award. The five awards were granted out of 14 finalists, and 513 were admitted to the honor roll.

“This is a significant federal award,” said Joann Weeks, an associate director of Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships. “We can really take it as a chance to highlight all the exemplary things we do across the campus.”

Carson-Newman College, Miami, North Carolina State and Seattle universities also received the award.

The five awards spanned four categories — general community service, early childhood education, promise neighborhoods model and summer learning.

This year, Penn was honored for its commitment in the summer learning category. In 2007, Penn received the Presidential Award in the general community service category and it has made the honor roll with distinction several times since 2006.

Weeks and David Grossman, Civic House director, will accept the award at a meeting on Mar. 12 sponsored by the American Council on Education in Los Angeles, Calif.

The honor roll was launched in 2006 and originated with the widespread efforts of college students to provide relief along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. It annually celebrates the marriage of meaningful community service with the personal and academic growth that service can offer students. The award is jointly sponsored by the national Department of Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

This year, the Netter Center worked with Civic House to compile an application highlighting programs that exemplified the goals lined out in one of four of the award’s main categories.

Penn’s application focused on summer learning — programs that offer a “safe, healthy environment for academic enrichment during summer breaks to help students retain what they learned during the academic year,” according to a Corporation for National and Community Service press release.

Many of the programs listed in Penn’s application are sponsored by Civic House, the Netter Center and other campus groups. Many involve working with middle and high school students in Philadelphia.

One such program is the Freedom Schools initiative, a Netter Center project that “provides daily summer programs with academic and cultural focuses” to K-8 students in West Philadelphia, Weeks said.

Penn’s chapter of InnoWorks, a national science and engineering program, offers a free one-week math and science camp in the summer for underprivileged middle school students in the Philadelphia area.

According to Weeks, this student-led program exhibits how the award recognizes not only individual service groups but also the entire Penn community.

“It is not just significant in terms of praising Penn, but it’s an award given to an institution that exemplifies what universities are all about: education that makes a difference,” said Ira Harkeavy, founding director and associate vice president of the Netter Center.

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