As a commuter student, Katherine Vargas ’12 viewed Leadership Lehigh—an in-depth development program that focuses on the practical application of leadership skills—as an opportunity to get involved and immerse herself in the Lehigh experience.
“I knew that in order to plug into Lehigh, I had to look for opportunities to make friends and get involved,” says Vargas, who graduated in May with a degree in marketing and supply chain management. “Leadership Lehigh looked like an awesome opportunity to grow as a leader, as well as get involved at Lehigh.”
During their third year, Leadership Lehigh students spend time learning about complex social issues. In order to both examine the privileges they have and learn how to educate their communities about the challenges our society faces, they create documentaries to inform themselves and inspire action.
As one of the group’s senior coordinators, Vargas helped the Class of 2013 students in Leadership Lehigh organize a showing of the short, social justice documentary films they created for the “Call To Action” project.
“The documentaries have been going on for three years, but nothing was ever done with them,” Vargas says. “This year, the quality of the documentaries we received was so good that we wanted to show them to the campus community.”
The event was held recently at Blue Theater at Steel Stacks in Bethlehem, and was coordinated in conjunction with the Office of Student Leadership Development. The documentaries, seven in all, focused on a variety of issues, ranging from clean water access to violence against women.
The films are available for viewing online.
Eric Goldstein ’13 got involved in Leadership Lehigh for many of the same reasons as Vargas. His group documentary, Racism: Waiting on the World to Change, focused on how racism and discrimination have evolved since the civil rights movement. Students interviewed Esther M. Lee, president of the Bethlehem NAACP and her husband, William; Courtney Jones, assistant director of multicultural affairs; and several students to give the audience a dynamic look at the issue.
“Esther and William know how far we have come in terms of the level of racism, but at the same time, there’s still progress to be made,” Goldstein says.
For Cheryn Amo-Adjei ’13, working on a documentary was one part of an experience that has gone a long way toward making her Lehigh experience a well-rounded one. Leadership Lehigh has afforded her a diversity of opportunities to be involved in the community, she says.
“I’ve put on community service events for New Bethany Ministries. I’ve become a M.E.R.G.E. mentor, where we partner up with a local high school in Allentown about 15 minutes away,” says Amo-Adjei, a biochemistry major. “We work with them on building their leadership skills and social issues that high school kids are facing, like self-confidence issues, body image issues, cyber-bullying, things like that.”
Says Goldstein: “I think one of the main things that I’ve learned at Leadership Lehigh about being a leader is that there are all different kinds of leaders. There’s not one cookie-cutter definition that says, ‘This is what a leader is.’”