Nearly 1,500 students flocked to the annual Community/Club Expo on the front lawn of the University Center to learn more about how they can get involved on Lehigh’s campus and in the surrounding community.
The event, held Monday and sponsored by the offices of community and regional affairs and student activities, showcases the many activities and opportunities available to students during their time on South Mountain.
“The Community Expo is the perfect opportunity to bring together the multitude of clubs, organizations, departments and community businesses into one location to make students, faculty, staff and community members aware of the vast variety of products and services that both Lehigh and the local community have to offer,” says Matthew Kitchie, director of student activities.
About 40 businesses and 30 nonprofit organizations from Bethlehem joined 150 campus organizations and clubs to welcome new and returning students to the city. Student club representatives representing everything from the paintball club to the hip-hop club provided information for students looking to find their niche on campus. Local restaurants and shops offered samples and coupons to promote their businesses, and community-based groups, such as ArtsQuest and the Historic Bethlehem Partnership, attracted new volunteers.
“This event is all about building relationships between the students and the community,” says Dale Kochard, assistant vice president of community and regional affairs. “We have all kinds of groups on campus that work with organizations in the neighborhood. By the time they’re seniors, 75 percent of our students have participated in some community effort—each year, they volunteer 50,000 hours of service.”
With more than 8,000 students, faculty and staff, Lehigh University is a huge force in Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley region. “We’ve been here for 145 years and it’s important for us to be part of this town and for the town to be part of Lehigh,” Kochard says.
Kochard adds that Lehigh is focused on working with the community on four strategic areas: a clean and safe environment, educational partnerships, neighborhood revitalization and commercial vitality. The university has established numerous partnerships with local organizations and schools, including the Bethlehem Mayor’s South Side Task Force and the Bethlehem Area School District.
Many student groups also volunteer extensively in the surrounding area.
Josh Leight ’11 is one such student. “For the past three years, I’ve led a homework club for Fountain Hill Elementary School students,” he says. “We spend half the time helping the kids with their homework and half the time playing with them and being positive role models. I volunteer in the community not only to help people living in South Bethlehem, but also to help Lehigh students realize that South Bethlehem is a friendly place. It’s been the best experience I’ve had here.”