West Philly students cook up on campus

The Netter Center for Community Partnerships helps high school students from West Philadelphia develop their strengths and interests through Leaders of Change, a University-Assisted Community Schools program.

Cooking with AUNI 2018
  Fifteen-year old Maya Threndgil (far left) and fifteen-year old Shayla Fleming (far right) make bruschetta, while eighteen-year old Indera Guiton (middle) searches for ingredients for her salmon patties. Photo: Eric Sucar

Hosted at Penn Hillel, the Leaders of Change 2018 Summer Culminating Fair showcased the work of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships’ many programs, including the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative (AUNI), which provides job training and leadership development for high school students.

By sharing its model of hands-on nutrition blended with healthy cooking lessons, AUNI’s cooking crews promote nutritional awareness across the community.

Cooking with AUNI
Eighteen-year old Indera Guiton mixes ingredients for her salmon patties. Photo: Eric Sucar 


LS Cooking and Nutrition with AUNI
High school students from West Philadelphia share healthy-cooking tips and free samples during the Leaders of Change program’s 2018 Summer Culminating Fair.


AUNI Cooking 2018
AUNI’s cooking crews promote nutrition through healthy cooking lessons.

This summer, the high school students used a problem-based approach to meet their goals of increasing healthier food consumption in West Philadelphia.

Through the Netter Center, students also participated in summertime internships with local businesses and Penn vendors, developing essential skills while gaining on the job experience. 

Mindfulness Poster Presentation
  Sixteen-year old Jadah Arthur presents her ‘Mindfulness’ project. Photo: Eric Sucar

The culminating fair, held Wednesday, Aug. 8, also featured many other programs that fall under the Leaders of Change umbrella, including:

  • The garden crews, who planned, maintained and harvested the gardens located at Sayre and Robeson High schools, while exploring the complexities of growing organic produce in an urban setting.
  • Rebel Ventures, a youth-driven, nonprofit social enterprise, where youngsters learned about public health and entrepreneurship by running a food business. 
  • Health Pipeline, through which Penn’s Master of Public Health students and faculty helped program participants learn about how their field keeps communities healthy by preventing chronic and infectious diseases, as well as reducing health disparities. The second half of the program introduces high school students to public health as a career field by providing hands-on learning, and fieldwork experiences that promote public health through data collection and analysis.
Outreach Poster Presentation
Through the Leaders of Change program, high school students conducted research regarding challenges facing the West Philadelphia community and presented their findings during the 2018 Summer Culminating Fair.

Additional programs run through the Netter Center include College Bridge, which helps graduating seniors make a successful transition to college; cross-grade literacy, which pairs Sayre High School students in grades K-through-3 to mentor them and build their literacy skills; cross-grade sports, which provides high school students the ability to develop the skills needed to pursue a career in sports and recreation; Gear Up Summer, which empowers youth to recognize themselves as agents of change in their communities; and the MAKUU Summer Impact, which helps students gain a firmer grasp of the college-admissions process.