CSO volunteers and elementary and middle school students play games on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, on the front lawn. CSO hosted a “Parents Night Out” for parents to have time to themselves while CSO takes care of the kids. (Alice Wilson/B&W Staff)

‘Parent’s Night Out’ offers children, parents a fun evening

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If Bethlehem parents need to run errands, go on a date or just want a night to themselves, they can drop off their children with Lehigh student volunteers one Friday evening every month.

On Oct. 6, the Community Service Office hosted its first monthly “Parent’s Night Out,” an event Lehigh started 10 years ago.

CSO partners with the Broughal Middle School homework club to pair Lehigh students and elementary school children for Parent’s Night Out.

The night begins when CSO members or homework club leaders pick up the children from one of the homework club sites. From there, the children are taken to Lehigh’s campus, where they have an opportunity to partake in activities planned by student coordinators, Nia Nesfield, ’20, and Gaby Montes, ’20.

The children are able to play kickball and engage in arts and crafts activities like tin foil boat races. Each Parent’s Night Out event has a theme — this past one was beach-themed.

“We just try to think of different activities, different crafts that have to do with the beach and can keep the kids entertained for a bunch of hours,” Nesfield said. “They can take things home with them so that they can reflect on that, so it’s a good mix of educational things and crafts and having fun.”

As much as these Parent’s Night Out events are catered to what the children will find fun and engaging, they are also meant to give parents a break.

Carolina Hernandez, the director of CSO, said parents are always asking when the next Parent’s Night Out event will be, proving that 10 years of the monthly Parent’s Night Out events is appreciated by the parents who get to have a night to themselves.

“I don’t know if the parents are more excited or the kids are more excited,” Hernandez said. “The families are always excited about the opportunity to have a Friday night where they could just do something without the kids and have this be a free program for their kids to participate in, and knowing that their kid is getting a warm dinner.”

Hernandez credits last Friday’s success to Nesfield and Montes for planning all of the activities and ensuring the night ran smoothly. Although it was just a few hours worth of activities, weeks of planning went into the event — including creating flyers, gathering supplies, buying food and finding volunteers.

Parent’s Night Out is not only an opportunity to relieve parents of stress or give children a fun night, but it creates a positive relationship between the Lehigh and Bethlehem communities.

“I feel like (Parent’s Night Out) is one of those programs that really showcases how the Community Service Office is working with the community and not just for the community,” Nesfield said, “which is one of our mottos, because I feel like a lot of volunteers afterward, they have a new understanding of where they’re living and what the kids are like.”

Beyond the improved town-gown relations, the event also shows how willing some Lehigh students are to dedicate a Friday night to spending time with children and having fun with them.

“For me, that’s something that always stands out,” Hernandez said, “and it’s a testament to our students.”

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