After the annual Feed the Food Bank event was cancelled, Lehigh’s Panhellenic Council, Interfraternity Greek Council and the Community Service Office joined together in a new event called Adopt-a-Teacher.
The event encourages sorority and fraternity chapters to sponsor teachers of local Bethlehem area elementary and middle schools by buying supplies for their classrooms.
Teachers from four schools — Broughal Middle School, Fountain Hill Elementary, Donegan Elementary and Centennial School — will be involved in the Adopt-a-Teacher program. Altogether, 173 teachers will be sponsored and receive supplies from Lehigh’s students.
The idea originally stemmed from Carolina Hernandez, director of the Community Service Office.
When Panhel and IFC were looking for an alternative to the annual food drive, the groups wanted to try something new that would make an immediate impact on the surrounding Bethlehem area. That’s how the idea to support local teachers came about, Hernandez said.
“This isn’t one of the things where you donate and don’t get to see fruits of labor,” said Aaron Monieson, ’17, community service chair for IFC. “With this you will immediately see impact.”
Even though Broughal is in close proximity to Lehigh, Monieson worries that Lehigh students don’t always realize what’s going on in the community outside of campus. Some students forget that there are other schools in the Bethlehem area and that need help, as they are often subject to detrimental budget cuts and cannot supply what they need for their students.
Katherine MacLachlan, ’16, campus relations chair on Panhel, said that though the council traditionally host a food drive, food banks in the area are usually well-serviced after the passing holiday season.
Unlike the food banks, local school districts are underfunded due to budget cuts, and teachers often pay out of pocket for normal school supplies, with little recognition for what they do. For MacLachlan, this event will be a celebration of recognition for what teachers do in the community and will hopefully show how Lehigh supports them.
“I can’t imagine doing such an important job,” MacLachlan said. “I’m excited to have them get the support for something they normally have to do for themselves.”
Originally, with the food drive, sorority and fraternity chapters would give up one night of dinner, and with that money, cook a dinner and donate it to the food bank. The same concept will take place for the Adopt-a-Teacher program, but in place of the food drive, the money from a night without dinner will buy the teachers’ classroom supplies.
Panhel and IFC will also ask for donations from within the Lehigh community, such as faculty and staff. Other organizations around Lehigh have also offered their help in supporting the teachers.
Once the money is raised, the groups will then turn their efforts community-wide, Monieson said. These organizations will begin to reach out to local Bethlehem businesses and restaurants in the surrounding area to ask for their help in donations for the supplies.
“I’m really looking forward to giving back,” Monieson said. “Hopefully with better funded, better equipped teachers we can make a greater impact on the community for the next generation of South Bethlehem students.”
For now, the teachers are unaware of the donations. Although the date has not yet been chosen, Monieson said they plan to reveal their surprise the first week in March.
There are plans to continue the Adopt-a-Teacher event in upcoming years as an alternate to the food drive. However, because it is the first year the event is running, it remains to a Greek-oriented event until the problems are worked out and a standard is developed, Monieson said. He hopes to expand this event in the future, to encourage other colleges in the Lehigh Valley to assist in the effort.