(Photo by Aida Velazquez-Santiago)
Lined with registration booths, the area around the gate to the Kevin W. Fitzgerald Park on St. Alphonsus Street buzzes with activity. Students displaying their university colors mingle with long-time residents of Mission Hill. Everyone awaits the start of the 2013 5k Mission Hill Road Race.
Representatives from various participating organizations walk around carrying clipboards, counting heads. Every member who shows up is vital. The "Puddingstone Pot" will be given at the end of the race to the organization with the largest number of participants. The annual event has generated a friendly rivalry between local colleges, while also bringing students out into the community.
While Northeastern took home the prize last year, “Wentworth has notoriously been the winner of the Puddingstone Pot,” said Hillary Mailly, an off-campus student services ambassador for Northeastern. “There is definitely a friendly rivalry going on.”
Local universities such as Northeastern, which have a large presence in Mission Hill, sponsor their students in the annual race. Northeastern pays the registration fee for all of its students who want to participate, said Mailly, a senior nursing major.
At this year’s race, local university colors were visible among a sea of bright-blue race shirts, as residents and students ran side by side.
“There is a little tension between students and families in the community. This event strengthens the bond between the community and the students,” said John Fitzgerald, son of the late state Representative Kevin W. Fitzgerald, a Mission Hill native.
According to John, his father started the race to benefit the Link Bus, which caters to the elderly in the community. Now, proceeds from the race benefit the park that carries the elder Fitzgerald’s name – the largest private park in the city of Boston.
Some Mission Hill residents say they are not bothered by the increasing number of students in their midst in recent years.
“I like them. They are good for the economy,” said Maurice Martin, a resident of Mission Hill for 63 years. “Of course, you hear some loud parties -- but I was young once.”
Events like the road race give students an opportunity to get to know the larger community, Mailly said.
“If students feel that they are a part of the community they live in, they might take more of an interest in taking care of that community,” said Mailly, who lives in Mission Hill. “We want students to be good role models, but we also want them to be good neighbors.”
Because Mission Hill Housing Services organizes the race, the event also is a chance for people to become acquainted with that agency, said City Councilor Michael Ross.
Members of the extended Fitzgerald family, who participate in the race each year, enjoy seeing the event draw a diverse crowd.
“I am a bridezilla today. This is like my wedding day,” said a smiling John Fitzgerald. “It’s a Fitzgerald family and Mission Hill reunion.”
This year, the Wentworth Institute of Technology, with a total of 247 participants, took the Puddingstone Pot home.
Northeastern came in a close second -- just 25 participants behind.
This article was reported and written under the supervision of Northeastern University journalism instructor Lisa Chedekel, as part of collaboration between The Boston Globe and Northeastern.