Partners in the Community
Since Lehigh University first opened its doors in 1865, it has been inextricably tied to the City of Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley region of eastern Pennsylvania. The vision of Lehigh’s founder Asa Packer, an industrial pioneer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, set the foundation for generations of students to learn, live and lead as productive members of their communities.
Bethlehem has undergone and continues to undergo a tremendous transformation as local leadership seeks to revitalize its neighborhoods, encourage growth and economic prosperity, and address a full range of critical social issues in order to strengthen the community. Lehigh University strives to be a good partner in that mission.
Lehigh University believes that a university brings intellectual vibrancy and collaborative opportunity to its home town. By working closely with the surrounding community, students benefit from experiences that will alter their life trajectories. The university can serve as a tremendous resource for the community. With that in mind, Lehigh has committed to working collaboratively with the City to improve quality of life for all in the area.
Although Lehigh University has a long history of collaboration with members of the Bethlehem community, in recent years it has developed a more formal framework for engagement that is a major component of the institutional strategic plan approved in 2009. The framework for the Lehigh-Bethlehem partnership includes four strategic priorities:
- Clean and safe environment
- Support of public education
- Commercial vitality
- Neighborhood revitalization
Among the initiatives focused on public education are Lehigh’s partnerships in Community School initiatives in South Bethlehem, including Donegan Elementary School and Broughal Middle School. The Community School model embraces the holistic approach to educating a child and parent together—a model that has proven successful across the country.
Lehigh’s commitment to fostering a clean and safe environment, commercial vitality and neighborhood revitalization is exemplified by the Community Ambassadors Program. Launched last September, the Ambassadors program is a partnership between Lehigh and the Bethlehem Economic Development Corporation, the non-profit economic development organization of the City of Bethlehem. The initiative is supported by the university’s three-year commitment to fund cleaning and safety Ambassadors in a core area of the South Bethlehem commercial district, centered on New St. and covering the blocks along 3rd and 4th streets from Broadway to Taylor Street.
Ambassadors walk in the designated areas seven days a week from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. About 20,000 cars a day travel along Third Street, commuting through or visiting South Bethlehem. The Ambassadors program is a great step toward revitalizing the South Bethlehem area as a litter-free, bustling commercial district that draws more people out of their cars.
Services provided by the ambassadors include:
- Daily litter removal of sidewalks and other public areas
- Daily removal of trash from receptacles throughout the commercial district
- Daily graffiti removal to deter copycat graffiti
- Tree and flower maintenance; weed removal
- Increased pedestrian security and hospitality assistance
- Parking assistance
- Snow cleared from crosswalks and handicap ramps
Lehigh will continue to build on these successes, working with the City to make a positive impact on the quality of life for all those who live, work and visit Bethlehem.