While they may not have balloons or cake, Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships is celebrating its 20th birthday in style.

In July 2012, the Netter Center officially turned 20, beginning a year-long celebration of its commitment to community partnerships and service.

The first event this semester is the Academically Based Community Service Summit on March 22, which Penn students will have the opportunity to be involved in. Although the Netter Center hasn’t finished planning the specific events of the summit, they are excited to celebrate the ABCS courses’ significant growth and plan to amplify the celebration because of the anniversary.

“This year’s ABCS Summit will also afford the opportunity to reflect on the significant growth in these courses since the Netter Center’s founding 20 years ago,” ABCS Coordinator Anne Schwieger said in an email.

She added that in the 1991-92 academic year, four courses taught by three faculty members enrolled 100 students. This past academic year, 59 courses — offered through 20 departments across six of Penn’s schools — were taught by 56 faculty and enrolled 1,714 students.

The big celebration, however, is the Netter Center 20th Anniversary Community Partnership Festival on May 3, at local Sayre High School on 58th and Walnut streets. The event will celebrate the Netter Center’s University Assisted Community Schools program and hopes to engage students from kindergarten through high school with Penn students.

Drumlines, dance teams, drama clubs and orchestras from local West Philadelphia schools will perform at the event. The celebration isn’t just for West Philadelphia students, however. Netter Center staff hope that a service action project, health clinic and recipe tastings will draw parents and Penn students alike.

This year, the festival is also incorporating other community partnership events into it. The event is merging with the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative’s Eat to Live Festival. Because of this, it will now feature cooking and gardening workshops, and a smoothie bike, which uses electricity generated by pedaling a bike to make smoothies.

It’s also likely that the festival will fold in Penn’s Community School Student Partnerships’ annual field day, where the student-run organization brings kindergarten through sixth grade students to Penn for a day of sports.

Celebration events began in November with a two-day academic conference in celebration of the 20th anniversary entitled “The Role of Higher Education-Community-School Partnerships in Creating Democratic Communities Locally, Nationally and Globally.”

The conference discussed the roles of university-school partnerships in helping improve nutritional issues, poverty and education. Speakers included presidents of more than ten universities, the president of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation and keynote speaker Randi Weingarten, the president of American Federation of Teachers.

According to Netter Center Director Ira Harkavy, the event was a “celebration of the Netter Center and the respect it has in the field and it has around the world.”

The festivities will end in late spring or early summer with a cocktail party for Penn parents and alumni to encourage donations.

For staff at the Netter Center, the anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on its success.

“[It] serves as reflection time of what we’ve accomplished and where we need to go,” Netter Center Assistant Director Rita Axelroth Hodges said.

This article has been updated to reflect that the Academically Based Community Service Summit will take place on March 22, not March 20.

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