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The Netter Center for Community Partnerships operates Penn's Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) courses, which allow students to engage with West Philadelphia schools and organizations.

Credit: Jesse Zhang

The time has arrived: the Add/Drop period for spring 2023 courses. Path@Penn is filled with an amalgamation of courses, and as Penn students, we must fulfill course requirements for majors, minors, special programs, and school cores. To fulfill these requirements and venture beyond traditional courses, we urge you to sign up for a transformative academic experience: an Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) course. 

Supported by the Netter Center for Community Partnerships and open to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in any of Penn’s schools, ABCS courses provide an opportunity for students to engage in the community and make a positive impact. These courses also have personal benefits for students: involvement in community service positively affects undergraduates’ academic competencies, leadership skills, and sense of self-efficacy. 

ABCS courses focus on a variety of different topics and allow students to learn by tackling real-world local problems in collaboration with those impacted by them. For example, students in ANTH 5467/EDUC 5467: Community Youth Filmmaking work with high school students to create films that tell stories about their lives, neighborhoods, and communities, such as this film about Sayre High School, a university-assisted community school. The films elevate youth voices and aim to spark social change regarding important social issues such as racism and environmental injustice. 

These courses also support immediate needs while reflecting on the systemic causes of and solutions to these problems. For example, students in the Wharton course ACCT 2110/BEPP 2110: Tax Policy and Practice in the Philadelphia Community help low-income Philadelphia residents obtain tax credits, a valuable source of additional cash for families looking to meet their day-to-day expenses. These students also discuss the effectiveness and implications of tax policies and their potential role in affecting broader change. 

Many of the ABCS courses address the historical lack of adequate resources and funding for schools in Philadelphia. In NURS 3130: Obesity and Society, students work across the city to help create a free library for elementary school students. NRSC 1160: Everyday Neuroscience allows students to develop their science teaching and communication skills by implementing hands-on labs with tenth graders from Paul Robeson High School. Louis Lozzi, a science teacher at Paul Robeson High School, noted that this partnership has led to a significant growth in Robeson students’ test scores on the Pennsylvania Keystone exam. 

After a semester as an ABCS student, you’ll likely walk away with a stronger knowledge base and personal growth. After taking URBS 1780/AFRC 1780/HIST 0811: Urban University-Community Relations, College senior Adam Goudjil felt that he learned simply everything about Penn’s socio-political relationship with West Philadelphia.” Along with other URBS 1780 students, Adam learned how to democratically develop an implementable service initiative focused on a local issue of his choice.

These classes also provide an opportunity to develop meaningful relationships outside of the Penn bubble. College senior Julia Dawson took FREN 2180: West Africa to West Philadelphia, which focuses on the experience of Francophone migrants from West Africa at the Lea School. “I looked forward to every session at the Lea School — our time spent together with the students was a real breath of fresh air from my day-to-day Penn schedule,” she noted. “I built strong relationships with the students that grew beyond the classroom and our Francophone studies.”  

These courses also satisfy general education, major, and program requirements. We encourage you to take a look at the figure below where we’ve listed out some of the featured ABCS course offerings for this semester, as well as each of the undergraduate requirements they fulfill. 

When you look back on your time at Penn, you may not remember every lecture or recitation, but you will surely cherish and utilize the skills and experiences of an ABCS course. You can engage deeply with a topic that matters to you — from educational inequity (EDUC 3123: Tutoring School: Theory and Practice; URBS 2020: Urban Education) to cross-cultural dialogue (EDUC 5437: Interfaith Dialogue in Action) to financial literacy (MGMT 3530: Financial Literacy Community Project) and beyond — through an invaluable, collaborative problem-solving process with your local community. 

Visit Path@Penn and add an ABCS course to your spring 2023 schedule. 

THE NETTER CENTER STUDENT ADVISORY BOARD works to increase Penn student involvement in the operation and strategic planning of the Netter Center. Members are closely engaged in Netter programming and represent a majority of Netter Center-led initiatives.