2018 All-America City Finalist - Allentown, PA

Application Summary for the All-America City Awards:

The City of Allentown is undertaking several redevelopment efforts, and is involving residents every step of the way,

including the use of a Neighborhood Partnership Program, diverse advisory council to guide the City’s comprehensive plan and committees for various aspects of the redevelopment. The City of Allentown makes extra efforts to reach young people through initiatives like a Youth Police Academy, Allentown Promise Neighborhood and a campaign called “Catch a Young Person Doing Something Right,” which recognizes young people who contribute to the city’s well-being.


Three project examples showing how this community leverages civic engagement, collaboration, inclusiveness and innovation to successfully address local issues:

 

1.) Job Training and Assistance for Allentown Residents through Lehigh Carbon Community College
Over the years, Allentown has lost many of its manufacturing jobs, so job training is a critical step in helping local residents find jobs with living wages. One of the key players in this job training effort is Lehigh Carbon Community College (LCCC), which is based in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania, and has a branch campus in Allentown, where it offers a variety of job training programs. The college works with the local Workforce Board Lehigh Valley, to develop job training programs for residents in careers such as EMT and paramedics, pharmacy tech, welding, payroll certification, robotics and industrial mechanical technicians.

Allentown has had an influx of immigrants, many of whom need help with English language skills to be successful in the local economy. In addition, many residents lack a high school diploma or GED. To address these challenges, local community colleges, schools and nonprofits formed the Lehigh Valley ABLE Coalition, whose members offer free English as a Second Language courses, Adult Basic Education and High School Equivalency instruction. These institutions then work with local workforce organizations to place students in jobs.

The creation of a Neighborhood Improvement Zone in one of Allentown’s business districts has led to capital investments and job creation. The Allentown Education and Training Center, located within the zone, helps to connect residents to the training and education they need to fill jobs created in the zone. The Training Center is a collaborative effort of local colleges and nonprofit organizations.

More information: Job Training Courses at LCCC

 

2.) Inclusive Police Department Programming
The Allentown Police Department is engaged in many activities to improve relationships with the community and foster a better partnership in preventing and combating crime. These include the addition of a six-member Community Crime Suppression Unit, funded through a federal grant, that works with the community to address crime “hot spots.” The unit’s work dovetails with the department’s Community Engagement 365 program, which encourages all officers to engage with the community on a non-emergency basis every day of the year.

The police department is using technology in a variety of ways, including a new smartphone app that allows residents to report crimes and suspicious activity anonymously in a way that allows officers to respond and ask questions of the reported individual. The department also obtained a grant to equip each officer with a body camera, the first department to do so in the region.

Allentown is also engaged in a variety of activities to reach special populations, including an outreach effort to the LGBTQ community and several programs for youth. The Cop Meets Block program brings officers into neighborhoods to meet with residents in social situations, like basketball games and parties. The Chief’s Youth Advisory Panel was formed to bring high school students into contact with officers on a regular basis in a forum where they can ask frank questions and give feedback.

More information: Allentown Police Department 

 

3.) Inclusive Initiatives to Serve Immigrants and Multi-Cultural Residents
Since many of its residents were born outside of the United States, Allentown has created a variety of programs to help these newcomers feel that they are part of the community, many of which are sponsored by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Multi-Cultural Affairs. This office sponsors festivals and other events throughout the year and provides one-on-one services to immigrants who need help navigating various programs. Allentown also has a Human Relations Commission that enforces an anti-discrimination ordinance adopted in the 1960s, which protects immigrants and other populations.

A recent project of the City is the creation of a Cultural Community Center, part of a building that houses other nonprofits. The center is available for office space and special events sponsored by groups in the community that serve a variety of populations. Organizations representing seven different nationalities have reserved space in the center, which regularly hosts attorneys dealing with immigration rights issues and visits from consulates from other cities.

Lehigh University has partnered with the City of Allentown to publish a Newcomers Guide to Allentown, which contains information on many day-to-day activities, like banking and getting a driver’s license. The guide is published in 12 different languages and includes video presentations on various resources.

More information: Newcomers Guide to Allentown

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