SSL Certificate
Center for Public Purpose

Penn’s Purpose  will:

  • support and expand the Penn Charter community’s sense of social responsibility and justice
  • strengthen our participation in the Philadelphia community and our role as a community resource
  • focus student work, initially, on issues of equity in education, poverty and food insecurity in the city of Philadelphia 
  • serve as a place for incubating ideas, connecting communities, sharing dialogue and supporting good works
  • streamline access that students and other community members need to make a greater difference

Our school’s founder, William Penn, embraced the call to service as the fundamental article of his Quaker faith.  Penn and the early Quakers were “excited” in their endeavors to mend the world. Their concept of service was grounded in a humanitarian impulse that was an inherent part of Quaker theology from the very beginning of the Religious Society of Friends in the mid-1600s.

Penn Charter has a distinguished heritage of service unsurpassed by any other school in the Commonwealth.  Service is not only a function of “what we do” at Penn Charter, but also “who we are” as America’s first Friends school. Penn’s Purpose will fulfill Penn Charter’s vision of what a 21st century independent school should look like. The center is both a physical and figurative representation of our desire to imbue Penn Charter students with the capacity and confidence to make the world a better place. 

Penn Charter has been a leader nationally in developing public/private partnerships that address critical community needs. Penn’s Purpose will make it possible to enable us to continue working on these models which are aligned with our mission as a Friends school. Our premise is that every non-public school should extend its reach beyond its own campus and constituents for the betterment of the larger community. 

Student Growth

Your Child & Penn's Purpose

How will Penn's Purpose help your child grow and learn?

Public purpose will increasingly be a central value in independent schools. At Penn Charter,  Penn's Purpose and our service learning curriculum affect students in the following ways:

  • Partnerships teach students to live in a diverse and multicultural society. An appreciation of diversity will be instilled in our students.
  • Development of character, cross-cultural competence and higher order thinking skills.
  • Students are engaged in problem-solving with the universities and the public schools in our neighborhood.
  • Enable our students to self-identify their interests or beliefs with active citizenship.
  • Equipping students with survival skills for college, careers and citizenship such as critical thinking and problem solving, asking the right questions, collaboration across networks and leading by influence, agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurialism, effective oral and written communication, accessing and analyzing information.
  • Creating a Public Purpose Portfolio, which will cover all of a student’s service learning activities at Penn Charter and be sent to colleges.
  • Incorporating student’s passions, ideas and designs into the program by supporting service throughout the school day and mapping pre-K through 12 service opportunities.


Programs & Partnerships

Programs & Partnerships with a Public Purpose

PRE-K THROUGH 12 SERVICE LEARNING: Penn Charter has embedded into the curriculum extensive service learning. Penn's Purpose resources open up new possibilities in every division of the school and serves as a resource for faculty and others in the broader community.

PUBLIC/PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS: Penn Charter, a founding member of the National Network of Schools in Partnership, is a national leader in for independent schools in public/private partnerships. Our schools works on an ongoing basis with 13 public schools in the School District of Philadelphia. Penn's Purpose serves as a clearinghouse for the wide variety of initiatives in this effort. Some of the partnerships — Widener Memorial School, Bayard Taylor School and Anna Lane Lingelbach School — have been in place for more than two decades. Penn's Purpose Founder Jim Ballengee spoke to the School Reform Commission on behalf of Taylor School.

ALLEGHENY WEST CONSORTIUM: This consortium is composed of Penn Charter, Bayard Taylor School, St. James School, Logan Hope School, Dr. Ethel Allen Promise Academy, Philadelphia University and Temple University. Teachers share ideas across a common platform; sharing resources brings up education and opportunities in the neighborhood. Students work together in meetings run by Temple University students and faculty have professional development meetings throughout the year. Video about Allegheny West Consortium.

POVERTY: Third graders read how the lack of disposable diapers affects low-income families throughout Philadelphia and now lead a year-round K through 12 drive to collect and deliver diapers to the Maternity Care Coalition in north Philadelphia. This is emblematic of many efforts across the school.

CIVIC LITERACY, ENGAGEMENT, & PUBLIC POLICY: We are working to make sure our students are issue-literate citizens, problem solvers and future leaders. Students in the Middle and Upper Schools are involved in studying school funding in Pennsylvania and looking for avenues to influence policy makers on this question.

PHILANTHROPY: Penn Charter is one of the few schools in the nation teaching philanthropy – this curriculum is being expanded to all divisions of the school.


The Center for Public Purpose engages Penn Charter students in service and community-based work by addressing some of the most pressing social issues in Philadelphia – education, food insecurity and poverty. The center’s work will align with Penn Charter’s Quaker values and curriculum, and students will act, reflect and demonstrate their learning through collaborative and creative responses. These opportunities will empower students, help them develop empathy, and give them a skill-set to engage in lives of service that will positively impact the community and the common good.

Penn Charter

A Friends School for Girls and Boys, Pre-K to 12

3000 West School House Lane Philadelphia, PA 19144 215.844.3460
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