Southside Ambassador program appoints new operations manager

By: Sarah Stevens | The Brown and White

The Southside Ambassador program appointed a new operations manager, Sandra Zajacek. She joins a team of four ambassadors focused on preserving the quality of life in the Southside community.

Zajacek said the program’s goal is not to make large changes, but instead focus on maintaining the city’s art and culture.

She said the program is addressing environmental issues like sweeping streets and recycling cigarette butts before they contaminate the city’s water.

Before Zajacek stepped into the role, Hector Lopez oversaw the program for eight years. Zajacek said she hopes to continue his initiatives, including setting up more cigarette receptacles.

Zajacek worked on Easton’s ambassador team for several years but always had a strong connection to the Bethlehem area.

She said her grandmother worked cleaning Lehigh dormitories and her grandfather worked cleaning at Bethlehem city hall.

“I love being on the Southside,” Zajacek said. “It’s a great mixed bag of education, industry, restaurants and residents, and I love the energy here.”

Working for the program is a job, not a volunteer position, but Zajacek said there are still ways for Lehigh students to get involved in the community and support the program.

For example, Zajacek encourages students to clean up the blocks they reside on.

On the business side of the program, the main managing group is Bethlehem Economic Development Corporation. The organization works to promote business on the South Side.

Asher Schiavone, the economic development coordinator for the City of Bethlehem, said the program launched in 2014 in partnership with Lehigh, which provides the majority of the program’s funding.

“The ambassadors are awesome,” Schiavone said. “The proof is talking with the business owners and talking with the visitors downtown. The ambassadors track how many people they reach out to.”

Schiavone said the ambassador program has a strong connection with many of the local establishments Lehigh students frequent. He said the ambassadors play an important role in increasing interactions between the Southside community and Lehigh students.

He said Zajacek has fresh ideas and he especially supports her in reinforcing that ambassadors ask individuals if they need help when they are walking around at night, when people normally go out.

Victoria Wagner, ‘24, said the Southside is a welcoming place where she is proud to walk around and show her family.

“I generally don’t feel unsafe outside,” Wagner said. “I don’t see trash on the floor or garbage bags left out. It is a really clean community.”

Schiavone said they were initially worried about Lopez’s departure but are excited to have Zajacek take his place.

Though a small group, the five ambassadors can be spotted around Bethlehem in their gold and blue uniforms.