Celebrating 10 Years of BALANCE

Lehigh’s Black and Latinx Alumni Network for Community and Equity marks milestone and builds on past success.

Students at Kente ceremony

Throughout the year, BALANCE members attend events that welcome or support students of color and aid in their success. In May, the group co-sponsored Lehigh’s Donning of the Kente ceremony with the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Vladimir Castillo ’19, left, and Romeo Bahoumda ’19 were among the graduating students recognized for their accomplishments and presented with kente cloths in honor of their culture. Photo: Christa Neu

When BALANCE Co-Founder Jessica Huertas ’94 made the Lehigh alumni affinity group’s Facebook page public on a Friday in June 2010, she was thrilled when there were nearly 50 followers by the end of the weekend. Now, the Black and Latinx Alumni Network for Community and Equity (BALANCE) group has more than 600 registered members and is celebrating its 10-year milestone with goals to grow, engage and give. The initiative is known as BALANCE 2020 and includes special regional and campus events throughout the year.

“BALANCE is only as strong as its membership, and the level of impact that we can have on Lehigh will strongly depend on our overall level of engagement,” said Mario Paredes ’11, co-executive director of BALANCE. “If BALANCE increases the size of its network and leverages the strength and resources of our community members, then Lehigh stands to win.”

BALANCE logo

By Dec. 31, BALANCE 2020 aims to almost double its membership, have 25 percent of BALANCE members attend a Lehigh or BALANCE event, and have 20 percent of BALANCE members make a gift to Lehigh to any area that they are passionate about. These goals dovetail with the affinity group’s past decade of success in strengthening the relationships of black and Latinx alumni with each other, the university and students. The goals also align with elements of the university’s Path to Prominence plan to increase diversity and intellectual vibrancy and build an equitable and inclusive community. The Path to Prominence plan is fueled by GO: The Campaign for Lehigh, which aims to raise $1 billion-plus and engage more than 50 percent of all alumni in the life of the university.

“We are already having an impact. By just being around and growing this affinity group for the last 10 years, Lehigh University administration has taken notice and supports BALANCE in its mission for a more diverse and equitable community,” said Huertas, a board director on the Lehigh University Alumni Association.

“It was just a few years ago that the alumni relations office hired Miguel Rivera—a full-time staff member dedicated to supporting alumni diversity programs and organizations,” said Jennifer Cunningham, assistant vice president, alumni relations. “Miguel’s professional expertise, combined with the phenomenal leadership of BALANCE; the passion of the group’s members; and the partnership with Lehigh’s Department of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity, is a recipe for extreme success. I can’t wait to see how BALANCE 2020 unfolds, and how quickly we shatter our goals!”

Get Involved and Stay Connected

BALANCE members at Lehigh sendoff

BALANCE members attended summer Lehigh Sendoffs in their region to welcome incoming students like those at the 2019 Manhattan Sendoff.

There are many ways to be involved with BALANCE, but becoming a member or updating membership contact information is the first step (very important so that each person is counted in reaching BALANCE 2020 goals!). Those who are already a member are encouraged to share the membership link with other alumni and encourage them to join. Alumni can stay connected through BALANCE’s Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram pages and join Lehigh Connects, a platform to build a person's Lehigh network through mentoring and purposeful connections. 

Watch for information on regional BALANCE alumni activities being planned for 2020 to commemorate the milestone, such as the kickoff celebration held in Northern New Jersey on February 29. The evening included a networking reception and a program with Donald Outing, vice president, equity and community; Jennifer Swan, interim director, Africana Studies; and Hugo Ceron-Anaya, director, Latin American and Latino Studies. Guests enjoyed a special performance by Valarie Adams and the Dimension Band. More information will follow about upcoming BALANCE events in Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; and on campus during Reunion Weekend, June 4 to 7, and the BALANCE banquet in fall 2020.

Umoja alumni reunite at Lehigh-Lafayette tailgate

In fall 2019, BALANCE members enjoyed celebratory events that marked the 30th anniversary of Lehigh’s Umoja House, a residential community that promotes cultural awareness, visibility, and community outreach for all of its residents.

Be a Lehigh ambassador and attend events that welcome or support Lehigh students of color and aid in their success. Past events include BALANCE members meeting first-year Lehigh students at summer Sendoffs, participating in milestone events such as the 30th anniversary of the university’s Umoja House, co-sponsoring the Donning of the Kente ceremony for graduating seniors, networking with first-gen students, serving as panelists during Diversity Life Weekend for high school seniors, and hosting a dinner with student leaders of Lehigh University multicultural organizations.

Another way to support students is to make a gift to the Lehigh Fund which provides vital financial aid or make a gift of choice at give.lu. Ensuring access and success for talented students is the top priority of GO: The Campaign for Lehigh. Every gift — regardless of size — given by a BALANCE member is counted toward the goal.

“BALANCE plays an essential role in making Lehigh a more welcoming place. Get involved, get engaged, and share your talents and treasures to help realize a more inclusive and equitable Lehigh,” said Reginald Jennings ’70, co-executive director of BALANCE. “Once our goals are obtained, the partnership we envision will help actuate Lehigh’s diversity efforts in new and exciting directions.”

 Story by Dawn Thren ’21P

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