Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person. – Mr. Rogers
To the Editor,
Mr. Rogers eloquently explains how a geographic area becomes a community. The simple interactions in Mission Hill transform it from the Zip Code Tabulation Area (ZCTA) 02120 demarcation to a place over 15,000 residents call home. Through more robust programming and increased awareness, it is my hope that students residing in Mission Hill can become more active participants in the community – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic to combat social isolation.
There are two groups residing in the Mission Hill neighborhood: 1) the university students, transient residents of the neighborhood, who frequent local businesses and 2) the longer term residents, composed of children and older adults, who have a unique set of needs, especially now given the COVID-19 pandemic. Table 1B (Appendix B) contains demographic information obtained from the American Community Survey, 2019 (5 year estimates) that seeks to highlight this distinction. As demonstrated in Appendix B, the vast majority of residents are between the ages of 15 and 25. 40.25% of the population has a Bachelor’s degree or higher. With only 7.21% of the population owning a home, student renters make up the vast majority of the neighborhood. However, of the 1,347 children who are under 15, around 74% are living in a single parent home. With virtual school, they run the risk of feeling lonely. In terms of the 1,000 residents who are 65 years or older, the vast majority of whom reside in assisted living communities, they also face increased social isolation as they quarantine to protect themselves from the virus. Hispanics, who comprise 25% of the population, face unique challenges with language barriers that contribute to social isolation. To form a more cohesive community, Mission Hill should seek to amplify crisscrossing relations between students and long-term residents through the use of policy implementation to protect the elderly and social programming to link student energy and resources to the pre-existing community.
The many organizations that exist in Mission Hill serve to reduce social isolation. The Tobin Community Center and Parker Hill Library provide space for community members to connect, stay active, and learn together. Mission Hill Main Streets keeps the community clean and keeps businesses operating efficiently. The Mission Hill Health Movement promotes wellbeing through participation in various public health initiatives. Sociedad Latina seeks to include Spanish speakers in on neighborhood happenings. Each of these groups contributes to a collective sense of togetherness in Mission Hill. While university students have helped with Mission Hill Main Streets’ quarterly clean ups in the past, many students are still unaware that the organization exists. By promoting these organizations at the nearby universities, we can foster a sense of community in Mission Hill. The Contact List included in Appendix C serves as a resource for students to learn to connect with these various community organizations.
Whether it’s a Northeastern student holding a door for a retiree at Mike’s Donuts or a Harvard medical student playing basketball with the children at Tobin K-8, these simple interactions make all the difference. These sort of interactions are more likely to take place if students are aware of the opportunities for community engagement. It is my hope that some student who reads this reaches out to help support their neighborhood.