Penn Futures Project: Investing in Children & Communities

February 17, 2016 - 4 minutes read

John L. Jackson, Jr., Pam Grossman, and Antonia Villarruel Engage in Unique Cross-Penn Collaboration Awarding Grants to Improve the Health and Well-being of Youth and Families in Philadelphia and Beyond

Three University of Pennsylvania deans have joined forces to improve the lives of Philadelphia youth and families through the Penn Futures Project (PFP). Penn Nursing Dean Antonia Villarruel, Social Policy & Practice (SP2) Dean John L. Jackson, Jr., and Graduate School of Education (GSE) Dean Pam Grossman announced today that they are investing $30,000 to launch cross-school pilot projects aimed at working in partnership with communities to improve the lives of children and families. Vincent Price, Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, agreed to match the contribution, making a total of $60,000 available for PFP work. The selected projects will focus on forging a partnership with a local high school for health sciences to prepare professionals who work with youth and support cross-professional and cross-sector collaboration, harnessing the power of cross-city agency data to create new solutions for children in poverty, and preparing practitioners to work with vulnerable LGBTQ youth.

The idea for the joint effort sprang from the common interests of three new deans joining Penn for the 2014–2015 academic year. The Nursing, SP2, and GSE deans quickly identified a common passion for improving the health and well-being of children and families. In the fall of 2015, these deans asked faculty members from across their schools to come together for a meeting to share the work they were doing in the community – over 50 Penn faculty attended. They were invited to find commonalities across schools, initiate cross-school collaborations, and create high-impact funding proposals for the deans. Three of these proposals were chosen for inaugural grants.

“The challenges facing our community cannot be solved by any one discipline, school, health system, or community,” said SP2 Dean Jackson, a Richard Perry University Professor. “It’s for this reason that we have partnered to work across Penn and across Philadelphia’s landscape of community organizations, local businesses, government agencies, and other entities to develop innovative, multi-disciplinary solutions to some of the most pressing problems. I am excited to see the social change we can bring about by combining our energy, expertise, and passion.”

“We are committed to finding ways to work with community members and other professionals to create greater opportunity for all of our children,” said GSE Dean Pam Grossman. “The challenges facing our youth go well beyond the schoolhouse, and these projects represent a unique opportunity to leverage the collective wisdom of the Penn community and beyond to invest in children and communities. Cross-professional collaborations promise to better prepare GSE, SP2, and Nursing students to work together on behalf of children and families.”

“Health is shaped not only by genetics and behavior, but also by access to healthcare and opportunities for healthy choices, which are largely a function of socioeconomic factors, including neighborhood environments, income, education, and social support,” said Penn Nursing Dean Antonia Villarruel. “We must address issues comprehensively by looking across these factors and investing in solutions that will make Philadelphia a healthier, safer, and more equitable city for our youth.”