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Penn was honored as one of four finalists in the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge in Washington, D.C., last month.

Penn was the only non-religious institution to be selected as a finalist by the White House.

The challenge is part of a White House initiative to engage college students in interfaith and community service projects. This year, the challenge was turned into a competition and over 400 higher education institutions applied to showcase their campus’ interfaith initiatives.

Associate Chaplain Steve Kocher, Netter Center’s Associate Director Joann Weeks and Civic House Director David Grossman submitted an application on behalf of Penn documenting Penn’s interfaith community service and programs, including Hillel’s Interfaith Rwanda Trip, Interfaith Service Weekend and the Interfaith Dialogue in Action class, as well as other initiatives.

Each year, the Interfaith Rwanda Trip sends 14 students to Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village for 10 days to help children orphaned during the Rwandan genocide. As part of Interfaith Service Weekend, approximately 100 to 150 students volunteer at a local church or high school to help with cleaning the buildings. The Interfaith Dialogue in Action class offers credit to students who want to explore religious pluralism and religious identity, and they work together on a variety of service projects.

“We were surprised [to be selected], to be honest, because we know other universities are doing tremendous work out there. But, it was a nice affirmation and an award for all of the religious and service groups at Penn,” University Chaplain Chaz Howard said.

“Without the level of service going on around the whole school, Penn wouldn’t have been recognized,” Weeks said.

Staff writer Sophia Witte contributed reporting.

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