Netter Center at Penn Announces Community Partnership Award Recipients

The Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania has announced that Richard Pepino and the School District of Philadelphia are the recipients of the second annual Netter Center Faculty-Community Partnership Award. The winners received $5,000 to strengthen their educational outreach efforts that address environmental health concerns through community engagement.

Pepino is the deputy director of the Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology’s Community Outreach and Engagement Core at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, which develops models and approaches to community environmental health while welcoming neighbors’ concerns to guide environmental research and sharing data from the Center with decision-makers to improve public health. He is also a lecturer in earth and environmental science in the School of Arts and Sciences.

“Mr. Pepino's scholarship and service activity exemplify the true spirit of Penn’s commitment to local engagement,” said Glenn Bryan, assistant vice president of community relations.

For 11 years, Pepino has taught academically based community service courses in partnership with the Netter Center that allow Penn’s students to research and help solve Philadelphia’s environmental problems and related public-health concerns.

By partnering with public schools, such as the Girard Academic Music Program, William L. Sayre High School, West Philadelphia High School, Henry C. Lea Elementary School and Benjamin B. Comegys Elementary, Pepino developed projects that promote environmental-health awareness among community members of all ages, particularly K-12 and college students.

As part of the course, Penn students work with school teachers to introduce K-12 students to environmental health risks right in their own homes. The K-12 students, in turn, share what they have learned with their families and communities through outreach activities.Originally launched in 1993 by Professor Emeritus Bob Giegengack, Pepino took over the lead-pollution academically based community service course in 2005 and strengthened its reach. Together, they inspired other faculty to develop and implement additional classes rooted in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, including academically based community service courses focused on asthma, tobacco, air quality, community health and water.

“Through collaborative problem-solving, Rich and his partners are working to improve education and the quality of life in the community, as well as the quality of learning and scholarship at Penn,” said Ira Harkavy, associate vice president and founding director of the Netter Center. “Their work together embodies Ben Franklin's belief as to the primary purpose of education, and that’s to serve others and contribute to a better world."

Peponi and leaders from lead poison class