Last year, The University of Pennsylvania’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships approached West Catholic Prep with an exciting grant opportunity to fund and expand current and new after-school activities for students. Since then, the center began working with school administration and then with Justin Bangs, Director of Student Life at West Catholic Prep, upon his arrival to the school in September of 2018. The center has helped the school find instructors and develop the programming and curriculum for these activities, in topics such as the culinary arts and photography. As a result, 15 new programs have been created and enrollment in the programs has doubled this year. The programming gives students opportunities to broaden their interests outside of the classroom, while networking with industry professionals.
“To have such an impressive and world-renowned partner such as The University of Pennsylvania is awe-inspiring and we are grateful for their funding,” Mr. Bangs said. “We are honored to have such a positive affiliation with the university, and this partnership has and will produce more opportunities for students, helping them to better themselves and their communities.” Mr. Bangs currently oversees the partnership and helps to guide motivated students to explore their interests beyond the classroom.
Culinary arts has been a very popular offering. “The demand outstripped our capacity,” said Mr. Bangs. “So, we are working to increase the number of days that it’s offered. Cooking, like life, is a learning experience and the more we know, the better we will do.”
Other programs being considered include a world affairs organization, debate club, and possibly a mock trial team. These new programs, and all of the current after-school options, offer students a creative space where they don’t have to worry about making mistakes—there are no grades, after all–and learn from them. West is currently offering a cosmetology program and photography club, all with the help of The Netter Center.
For West Catholic Prep senior and West Net broadcaster Chuong Pham, the expansion is extremely meaningful. “Because of the partnership, more students will be able to explore a wider-variety of activities that interest them.”
Working with the Netter Center, West Catholic Prep has implemented “Career One Stop,” a program that teaches students skills necessary for employment. Students are paired with center staff to improve their interviewing skills, create resumes, and develop other ways of thriving in the work place.
Junior Senette Wiah is highly active in West Catholic Prep extracurricular offerings. She’s a part of Fashion Cub, Burr Radio, West Net, Spoken Word Club, Softball, and National Honor Society. Wiah feels the expansion creates an opportunity for the school to bring everyone together in a welcoming and trusted environment. “We have so much fun working with each other and collaborating on new ideas,” said Wiah.
This opportunity furthers West Catholic Prep’s belief that it should be a place where a student’s intellect and potential are fostered in a positive, healthy environment.
To learn more about joining a club or to pitch a new activity for the program, please reach out to Justin Bangs at Jbangs@westcatholic.org
Thanks to Noah Thomas-Sneed ’19 for his contribution to this piece.