On Friday, February 17th, CSO Director and CCE Associate Director Carolina Hernandez facilitated a Restorative Practices Training for Broughal Middle School (Bethlehem Area School District) teachers and administrators. Restorative practices, a framework for building communities through conflict resolution and harm prevention, has been an increasingly valuable tool for our school systems as we seek to develop strong active citizens who can face conflict with resiliency and humility. Carolina is an official RP trainer and was certified by the International Institute on Restorative Practices, which is right around the corner here in Bethlehem.
We stand at a critical decision-making moment as a nation. We can respond to terrorism by a violent few through policies and rhetoric that further divide and marginalize an entire population. Or, instead, we can embark upon the messy and necessary work of active citizenship that engage us with our neighbors and strengthen our community locally and globally.
As college students across the nation grapple with diversity and inclusion on campus, they are also wrestling with the question of what it means to embrace diversity as a nation—especially in this time of pain and uncertainty. Student participants in Lehigh University’s Global Citizenship program—which prepares students for living in a culturally diverse and rapidly changing world—have engaged in community-based learning that promotes their identity as active citizens while working with local organizations. Chief among the organizations is the local chapter of the Lutheran Children and Family Services Refugee Resettlement Program, which assists refugees and asylees through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of State. These services are made available to hundreds of refugees each year in the five-county Southeast Pennsylvania area, Lancaster County and in the Lehigh Valley area, which includes Allentown, home to one of the largest Syrian populations in the U.S. and a neighboring city of Bethlehem, where Lehigh University is located.
Last week, we had the distinct privilege of hosting Patti Clayton here at Lehigh for a few days of professional development workshops. Delving into day-long exploratory sessions, we discussed a wide range of issues facing the field of service-learning and civic/community engagement (SLCE). Much of what we discussed focused on understanding and addressing the continuum of service learning and community/civic-engaged work from technocratic (doing service “for”) to democratic (partnering around service “with”).
Lehigh stands at a crossroads in this regard.