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What is the Bethlehem Community Collaborative?

By Dale Kochard, Assistant Vice President, Community and Regional Affairs

Lehigh University

 

  1. What is the BCC and what is its mission?

 

The Bethlehem Community Collaborative was formed in 2008 as an initiative by members of the Rotary Club of Bethlehem. They gathered 30-40 community leaders together for a conversation about what they would like Bethlehem to be in 20+ years. The city was undergoing a transformation and these leaders believed it was important that there needed to be some strategic thinking around how the city would evolve over the ensuing years. We evaluated a similar initiative in Redwood, Ca. where a group of community leaders had gathered years before to ask themselves the same question.

 

After a few group meetings with open discussions, a meeting was facilitated by the NCC Leadership Group to build consensus on what our focus should be. We decided the most important thing we should do to secure a positive future for Bethlehem was to empower the youth of our city because they would be the leaders of our community in 20 years. That became our mission and we set off looking at ways we could do that within the footprint of the BASD. We decided not to become a 501(c)(3) organization, as we did not want to compete for funding with other local non-profit organizations.

 

Some examples of what we have done over the years:

  • Inventoried and interviewed local service and support organizations that we called “Islands of Excellence” within the BASD that support youth activities.
  • Implemented a 7.75 campaign to help fund afterschool programing when the funding for the ASPIRE program in the BASD was dropped.
  • We worked with the BASD to form the Bethlehem Area Youth Council to give 9th through 12th grade students the opportunity to have a voice in what happens in their community.

 

  1. Who are some of its members?

 

Over the years membership has evolved. Some of the organizations currently participating include:

  • Bethlehem Area School District (superintendent, principals, staff, etc.)
  • City of Bethlehem (mayor, police chief, Department of Community and Economic Development, etc.)
  • Luke’s University Health Network
  • Lehigh University
  • Ben Franklin Technology Partners
  • Northampton Community College
  • Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley
  • Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley
  • Just Born
  • United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley
  • TransitionGroup
  • Lehigh Valley Children’s Centers
  • Local residents
  • Local churches

 

  1. How has BCC been working with Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley to establish a Bethlehem Promise Neighborhood?

 

The BCC saw the Promise Neighborhood model as a great way to empower the youth in a community. We reached out to PNLV in 2012 to consider working with the BCC to develop a Promise Neighborhood model in Bethlehem. We have been working with PNLV through the development of the environmental scan of the City of Bethlehem and are helping to identify and coordinate locations where community informational meetings can be held. We see our role as support for the effort to form a Promise Neighborhood in Bethlehem.

 

  1. How do you think a Bethlehem Promise Neighborhood will benefit families in the city?

 

We already have a lot of assets to support the Promise Neighborhood model in Bethlehem. A BPN will help to coordinate the efforts of those assets toward an agreed upon set of goals for the PN and identify gaps in the support for those goals. The end result will be a continuum of support for our youth from pre-natal care to career. This meets the BCC’s mission of empowering youth for our future.

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