Offices ‘adopt a classroom’ to support Philly schools

Across the city and the nation, now is the time of year that many teachers open their wallets to personally pay for classroom supplies that dwindling school budgets may not provide. And many families find themselves confronted with lengthy checklists of supplies that can be costly, sometimes prohibitively so.

A pilot program, “Adopt a Classroom,” organized by the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, aims to alleviate this financial burden of back-to-school for teachers and families in the School District of Philadelphia.

“This program was born out of the recognition that teachers have to come out of their pockets to buy some of these items, and knowing that the populations we work with in the surrounding neighborhood may not be able to help,” says Isabel Sampson-Mapp, associate director of the Netter Center. “And knowing that my colleagues at the University are beyond generous, it seemed a perfect fit.”

The program focuses on the Netter Center’s University-Assisted Community Schools: Comegys School, Lea School, Sayre High School, and West Philadelphia High School. Anyone at Penn—an individual, an office, or a department—can request to be paired with a classroom in one of these schools to fulfill a wish list of educational supplies.

Isaac Rothmiller, a grants coordinator in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics (CCEB) in the Perelman School of Medicine and a member of the department’s staff life committee, learned of the new effort early in the summer from a note slipped in the committee’s suggestion box.

“We talked about it and everybody was very, very enthusiastic about adopting a class,” Rothmiller says.

After contacting Sampson-Mapp and being connected with a 5th grade class at Comegys School, Rothmiller and the rest of the committee sent out email blasts to colleagues and set up several collection boxes around the building. After two weeks, they had several boxes full of materials to deliver to the school.

Rothmiller is a former teacher and, growing up, had friends who attended Comegys, so he was especially heartened to see how his office responded to this call for action.

“It was really encouraging,” he says. “It is a good thing for the students in the class and some of their parents, but I think it is also a great thing for some of our staff. To have people come together for something they can feel so good about, especially something that is connected with our department’s public health mission, it’s a win-win.”

Members of the Penn community who wish to adopt a classroom can specify whether they would prefer an elementary, middle, or high school class. Participants can also choose whether they’d like to meet the teacher and develop a relationship with the class, or drop off goods anonymously.

For more information about “adopt a classroom” or other Netter Center volunteer programs, contact Sampson-Mapp at

Adopt a Classroom