By Dina Liberatore
The Highlands community is composed of such a diverse array of people – young and old; students, faculty/staff and retired persons; people who own homes and people who rent; people who have spent a lifetime here and people who are just passing through on their way to a degree. This diversity may make it hard to build relationships organically as each of those groups have different interests, priorities and values, and demands on their time. However, to truly live in a “neighborhood,” we need to be more than just “ships passing in the night.” We need to get to know those who live nearby, and support and trust each other as best we can.
With that goal in mind, the Neighbor to Neighbor program was established in 2010 to bring together fraternities and full-time residents of the Highlands. Each year, permanent residents who volunteer are paired with neighborhood fraternity chapters. Partners encouraged to formally and informally interact, discuss goals and concerns, and support each other’s visions of the community.
As the Neighbor to Neighbor Chair since 2021, my role has been to work with the Interfraternity Council Vice President of Community Relations to facilitate neighborhood relationships. Our main goal is to build community by connecting fraternities and neighbors and organizing events like semesterly luncheons and Holiday Lights.
When I joined this program, I was paired with Phi Sigma Sigma sorority (previously housed at the corner of Beaver and Pugh, in Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s house). It was the first time a sorority rented one of the downtown fraternity mansions and they’ve been an asset to the Neighbor to Neighbor program and a joy to get to know ever since. Our relationship changes each year as new officers with new goals are elected. In the past, I’ve primarily worked with them to fulfill their community service goals through volunteering with AAUW State College to prepare for our annual used book sale and occasionally helping me with yardwork on projects around my house that I simply could not do alone! It’s been a simply wonderful relationship and I’ve loved treating some of the new officers to lunch or dinner each year to learn about the sorority and find ways to work together. I’m not an adviser to the chapter and I’ve definitely never met all 200+ members, but I get to serve as a resource and role model to those that I do get to interact with, giving them a glimpse of the bigger community outside of their house and beyond College and Beaver Avenues.
Other N2N partnerships look different in the extent of the relationship between the fraternity and the neighbor that they are paired with. For example, some neighbors provide cookies to welcome back their fraternity at the start of the semester. Some fraternities give the neighbor a heads up when they are planning a larger social event or invite their neighbors to a Parents Day celebration. It’s these small interactions that build community and make the Highlands more than just a place where diverse groups live – they make us a community of “neighbors.”
Read more about Neighbor to Neighbor here and feel free to reach out if you are interested in joining!