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When the West Philadelphia Improvement Corps began 10 years ago, some said it wouldn't last longer than a few months. But WEPIC celebrated its 10th anniversary Saturday night at the Sheraton Hotel at 36th and Chestnut streets. WEPIC is a University-assisted, school-based service learning program in coordination with nine Philadelphia public schools. The organization also sponsors community schools, summer youth employment, school-to-work initiatives and Construction Tech -- a program which employs carpentry students at West Philadelphia High School. Ira Harkavy, director of the Center for Community Partnerships, assisted in WEPIC's development in 1985 through seminars and research projects. Harkavy said he hopes that universities nationwide view WEPIC as a model for programs strengthening university-community relations. "The University has made great strides," Harkavy said. "I am hopeful that the University and community can continue to work together into the future." Saturday's event recognized University professors who created the idea for WEPIC, Philadelphia school teachers and administrators who helped develop the community-university partnership and community leaders who have supported WEPIC since its inception. Marie Bogle, a Philadelphia school teacher since 1971, said she did not expect WEPIC to survive more than a few months. "I didn't think that it would get this far," Bogle said. "But now [WEPIC] is an established institution within an institution." She also said that a community's foundation lies within its schools. "Education must be relevant to the needs of our youth," she said. "Our schools should share a common bond with the community." Currently, WEPIC is engaged in a variety of projects including school-to-work initiatives at University City and West Philadelphia high schools and Sayre, Shaw and Turner middle schools. For example, Penn-Presbyterian Hospital and the University Medical Center provide 15 paid apprenticeships to University City High School students. Some students in the program work 10 hours per week. WEPIC is also involved with curriculum initiatives at Turner and Shaw. Frank Mont, who was born and raised in West Philadelphia, provided funds to help create WEPIC in 1985. He said Saturday night that he was proud the University can respond to the needs of the community. "The University is not trying to be the leader," Mont said. "The community tells the University what they need and the University assists in the development of various programs." Mayor Ed Rendell, although not in attendance at the event, issued a proclamation honoring WEPIC's 10th anniversary. An awards ceremony preceding the dinner recognized people affiliated with the West Philadelphia Partnership and WEPIC who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and distinguished service to WEPIC. Harkavy, along with History Professor Emeritus Lee Benson, received the Founder's Award, acknowledging gratitude for the creation of WEPIC. Bogle received the Teacher's Award, recognizing outstanding teaching at several local public schools. Marvin Schuman received the Philadelphia Federation of Teacher's Award, recognizing leadership of the federation and active support of WEPIC. George DiPilato, principal of Lincoln High School, received the School District Administrator's Award. He has served as district superintendent and regional superintendent as well. George Brown, former executive director of the West Philadelphia Partnership, received the Community Service Award.

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