As Lehigh students, we only have four years to get to know our college town and the people who have always called Bethlehem home.
It is a privilege to us as journalism students to get to learn about the stories and desires of our neighbors.
This past month, we stepped off the hill to speak with various South Side members.
Here’s what we found out:
From elementary and middle school teachers, we discovered there needs to be a more considerable emphasis on housing and security issues for students and their families.
We learned the arts community desires to expand the Southside Arts District and integrate more art into public spaces in Bethlehem.
We learned that some Bethlehem residents, like SouthSide Ambassadors Supervisor Hector Lopez, do support the city’s recent developments.
Lopez’s father worked for The Bethlehem Steel Corporation for 35 years, and now, Lopez works on the South Side. He said he hopes to make the community inviting in order to attract new businesses to come fill vacant storefronts.
We learned from local librarians how important it is to have community services. They said they hope for more local residents to tap into these resources, whether it is utilizing their citizenship class or checking out passes to local museums.
Through face-to-face conversations, we were able to connect with and better understand our community from several perspectives.
So, let’s keep getting to know our neighbors. What sparks their passions? What makes them angry? What are we wrong about?
When we make the effort to ask these questions, we find out more than we would have anticipated.
We should consider the untapped insight of the people living around us. Their wisdom may teach us things we won’t learn in the classroom.
Next time we find ourselves ordering from local restaurants like The Gooseman, Johnny’s Bagels or Sotto Santi, we will ditch the small talk.
If they know our orders by heart, shouldn’t we get to know their history?
It’s human nature to enjoy connection and conversation. We should take the time and effort to learn about each other, beyond the confines of the pen and paper.
Let’s get out into the community and allow people to get to know us and our truths — just as we as student journalists should seek theirs.