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High school students from the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative’s youth development program, a program of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania, hosted their annual benefit dinner, Eats and Beats. Credit: Alex Remnick , Alex Remnick

The Netter Center may only be 20 years old, but its current staff boasts an array of Penn graduates going back as far as 50 years.

The Netter Center has been in good hands since its inception under founding director and 1970 College graduate Ira Harkavy. Harkavy, the associate vice president of the Netter Center, continues to teach courses both at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Related: Netter Center celebrates 20 years

Several staff members were former students of Harkavy’s. Most were enrolled in an academically based community service (ABCS) course at one point in their undergraduate years. For many, their desire to become more involved in Philadelphia and strengthen Penn’s commitment to the city was inspired by these courses, and they came back to work at the Netter Center.

In honor of the Netter Center’s 20th anniversary, The Daily Pennsylvanian profiled Penn alumni who are currently working at the Netter Center. They are listed below, ordered by graduation year:

—1988 College graduate Tiz Powers currently serves as the director of University-Assisted Community Schools. As an undergraduate at Penn, Powers was involved with the West Philadelphia Improvement Corps, which was the predecessor of the Netter Center.

—1991 College graduate Cory Bowman is the Netter Center’s associate director and has been working there since it was founded in 1992.

—Bowman’s classmate, fellow 1991 College graduate Theresa Simmonds — who went to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship after Penn — was involved in some of the earliest work of the Netter Center as an undergraduate. She returned this summer as the training and technical assistance coordinator of College Access and Career Readiness.

Related: Netter Center events celebrate 20 years

—1999 College graduate Hillary Kane began working with the Netter Center shortly after graduating. As an undergraduate, she helped create the Civic House. “I really wanted to be doing campus community work because I really enjoyed it as a student,” she said.

Kane currently serves as the director of the Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development. PHENND — whose offices are housed in the Netter Center — is a group of 33 colleges and universities in the greater Philadelphia area that works to foster the civic responsibility of its member institutions.

—2005 College graduate Rita Hodges is the assistant director of the Netter Center. Hodges began at the center as a research coordinator on the university-assisted community school model. “I knew that I wanted to be in the nonprofit sector and do something related to working with children,” she said. While working as an independent consultant, she researched other universities that had replicated Penn’s university-community partnership model and co-authored a book that reviews the role of universities in their communities. “We still have a long way to go to reach our full capacity in using the university’s resources to help the community,” she said. “But being involved from an undergraduate to staff, it’s exciting to see the promising trajectory of where [the Netter Center] could go.”

—2012 College graduate Joanna Chae was the Netter Center’s first West Philadelphia Emerson fellow and is now the coordinator for University-Assisted Community Schools administration, ABCS and STEM Partnerships.

—Chae’s classmate, 2012 Wharton graduate Shama Jamal, was the first National Policy Emerson fellow and is currently stationed in Washington D.C. at the Coalition for Community Schools.

—2013 College graduate Kristin Thomas is currently working as this year’s West Philadelphia Emerson fellow. Thomas’ relationship with the Netter Center began through her ABCS courses and her work with the Urban Nutrition Initiative. She hopes to pursue a Masters in Public Health in the near future. “I’m using this year to spend some time with students we work with and find out about the challenges of receiving adequate healthcare not just in Philadelphia, but the country,” she said.

—2013 College graduate Janeé Franklin, the ABCS coordinator, works with faculty and students to develop and support these courses that have made a difference in her life and in many of her co-workers’ as well. Both Franklin and Thomas were among the students who traveled to D.C. to lobby congressional staffers for financial aid this summer.

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