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Cabrini focuses the majority of our local involvement in the community of Norristown.

Located on the Schuylkill River in central southeastern Montgomery County, Norristown is rich in history, tradition, and opportunities. 

This intentional partnership with the entire community of Norristown, rather than selected social service agencies, allows for a deeper, more meaningful, and more reciprocal relationship. We believe that it is essential to work within the context of a partnership where both our college and the community are invested in learning from each other.

This partnership provides invaluable opportunities for students through internships, community-based research, service learning, advocacy, and volunteering. For more than a decade, Cabrini has developed relationships with schools and non-profit organizations that serve the community of Norristown.

We also have well established relationships with Norristown’s municipal government, police force, neighborhood associations, and small business community. Students have the opportunity to combine their learning in the classroom with real world situations.

Some of our partnerships include:

By partnering with the community,

  • local non-profits, social service agencies, and community organizations receive support from students in the forms of volunteer hours, community-based research, internships, advocacy, and class projects 

  • men and women living on the margins of society receive increased services and support from agencies whose capacity is increased through their partnership with Cabrini 

  • students benefit from the real-world education and life stories provided by community partners and neighbors

Our partners are valuable teachers, educating faculty, staff, and students about social issues, leadership, and community development.

In return for their services, students receive knowledge and insight of Norristown’s leaders, gain skills to prepare them for the workforce, and partake in the rich culture and arts in this vibrant community.

A Brief History of Norristown

Norristown, a municipality located on the Schuylkill River in central southeastern Montgomery County, has an estimated population of 31,000. As the county seat, Norristown functions as a regional center for government, law, and health services. 

It was the largest of a series of river boroughs that once formed the industrial base for the county. While Norristown’s industrial base was varied, its primary industry was textile mills. Additionally, the borough served as the shopping center for much of the county with bustling downtown streets. 

During the 19th century, Norristown’s economic growth was tied to numerous transportation improvements. In 1824, the Schuylkill Canal was opened, greatly improving navigation on the river.

By 1835, the railroad arrived, connecting Norristown with Philadelphia and coal country. The 1880s brought trolley service that eventually expanded into the SEPTA Norristown Regional Rail line and Route 100 High-Speed line that serve Norristown today. 

Norristown has faced challenges similar to other older Philadelphia suburbs. With the flight of industry away from urban areas and to other regions and countries, the industrial base disappeared. The automobile age has been more of a bittersweet experience for Norristown. It led to suburban malls, which emptied the downtown and relocated industry to outlying areas.

The advent of these suburban shopping centers, particularly in King of Prussia in 1963 and Plymouth Meeting in 1966, decimated the downtown shopping district, leaving it with vacant storefronts and uninviting streets. 

Luckily, the borough was bypassed by most of the region’s automobile-oriented improvements, such as Interstates 276, 76, and 476. It still has convenient access to these highways but was spared the physical destruction that their construction brought. 

Since 1960, Norristown has experienced a significant decline in population in contrast to the sharp rise in residential and commercial development that occurred in the remainder of the county. 

Norristown Today

While Norristown’s population has declined for several decades, there has been a large and quickly growing Latino population, predominantly from Mexico. In addition to facing the challenges of joining a new community, a large segment of this population is undocumented and often transient. 

Both challenges and opportunities have come from this situation. Reflecting on a larger national ideological divide on immigration, some residents feel unease and resentment toward the immigrant population, while others are more tolerant and welcoming of the new residents.

At the same time, new businesses have been established by the Spanish-speaking population, revitalizing once vacant and underutilized properties. 

Norristown remains the public transportation hub for the county. Its public transit access is unparalleled in suburban Philadelphia, allowing direct connections for residents to Center City, 69th Street Terminal, and Philadelphia International Airport.

Norristown also plans to put itself on the map through the development of its arts district, a section of town called the “Norristown Arts Hill.” With this and other positives in mind, Norristown enters its third century determined to revitalize business districts and neighborhoods.