Penn Compact 2020/

Engage Locally, Nationally and Globally: The Sayre High School

Penn has a proud legacy of local engagement in the West Philadelphia area, serving as a major employer, a leader in health services and education, and a world-class University that weaves not just civic awareness, but also hands-on civic action, into its academic curriculum.


The Sayre High School in West Philadelphia is an example of Penn's commitment to engaging locally through the Penn Compact. At Sayre, located about 20 city blocks from Penn's campus, more than 85 percent of the students come from families the School District of Philadelphia considers economically disadvantaged.

In 1996, Penn established a partnership with Sayre, creating one of the first university-assisted community schools in the United States. The School brings together high school, college, and graduate students in one setting.  Penn programs at Sayre include career and college preparation, science education, nutrition and gardening -- including school fruit stands and community farmer’s markets and cooking classes -- and providing high school students with internships at professional worksites.

As part of this initiative, Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships joined with the University of Pennsylvania Health System and school and community partners to open in 2003 the Sayre Health Center, now named the Dr. Bernett L. Johnson Jr. Sayre Health Center.  The Sayre Health Center is an independent 501[c]3 operating as a federally qualified health center that treats patients regardless of their income or medical insurance status.  It works closely with Penn, including its schools of Medicine, Nursing and Dentistry, Penn’s Health System, the Sayre school and the Sayre community.

Penn's model of university-assisted schools has not only developed and grown in Philadelphia, but has also been replicated across the United States. In 2009, Penn was named number-one among colleges and universities for its model partnership programs advancing teaching, research and learning at Penn while simultaneously improving the quality of learning and the quality of life in the community.

By working alongside others to benefit society, the Penn Compact reaffirms what Penn's founder Benjamin Franklin called "an inclination…to serve mankind, one's Country, Friends and Family."

Text by Laura Cavender
Video by Kurtis Sensenig