University City

University City community, area schools partner for 5K

Students from Nathaniel Alexander Elementary started off last year’s Governor's Village 5K. This year’s race is scheduled for April 18.
Students from Nathaniel Alexander Elementary started off last year’s Governor's Village 5K. This year’s race is scheduled for April 18. CHICK-FIL-A UNIVERSITY PLACE

The start and finish lines of the second annual Governor’s Village 5K on April 18 will be in the same University City area that bears the race’s name.

Governor’s Village refers to the cluster of Nathaniel Alexander Elementary School, Morehead STEM, James Martin Middle School and Zebulon Vance High School: four Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools within a half-mile of one another that opened within two years of each other in the late 1990s.

Event organizers hope the race encourages students to take pride in starting and finishing something else within the Governor’s Village – the time they will have spent in school between kindergarten and high school graduation.

School reps and race leaders have a goal of making the annual event a community-bonding event that instills pride in the schools’ students and their families.

“It’s part of our goal to re-establish the relationship between the schools,” said Nathaniel Alexander first-grade teacher Nicole Nederik. “We have a very transient population. We’re trying to develop that sense of community where they will start at Alexander and finish at Vance.”

With the help of Chick-fil-A University Place, whose staff is organizing the race, proceeds from event will benefit the schools through cash donations and college scholarships for the students. Restaurant owner Rob Rogers said that each of the schools received $4,000 in 2014, the race’s first year.

This year, Rogers says that donations, which will be 100 percent of the race’s registration fees, will be awarded to each school based on the percentage of runners that represent them. For example, if 50 percent of the runners declare themselves as supporting a specific school, that school will get 50 percent of the total proceeds.

Each school will select one student to receive a $2,500 college scholarship. The money is raised from the race’s community and corporate sponsors. Scholarship winners are selected by scoring based on each student’s character, academic ability and work ethic.

There are approximately 4,600 students who attend the four Governor’s Village Schools. Alexander, Martin, and Vance all receive funding through Title I: They are schools with at least 72 percent of its students being economically disadvantaged.

“We don’t realize the home lives or academic lives they all have,” said Amanda Kerr, race director and Chick-fil-A University Place marketing director. “These schools have needs we can fulfill.”

Rogers says Chick-fil-A considered hosting a University City-based charity race for several years but had trouble finding the appropriate route.

Last year, members of Nederik’s after-school program at Nathaniel Alexander “were thinking of something that would pull us all together,” she said. They decided to hold a 5K race in honor of a long-time Alexander teacher who had some recent health issues.

About a fourth of the 742 runners were students. As of April 3, almost 350 people were registered. Race leaders are shooting for 1,200 to 1,500 runners.

Nathaniel Alexander students have been gearing up for this year’s race for the past two months. Every Friday they wear their race T-shirts from last year.

“They’ve been talking about it since the first day of school,” said Nederik.

In the first two days of registration, approximately 100 students signed up. To train for the race, Alexander teachers host student-teacher workouts every Thursday.

On race day, runners will start at the bus parking lot shared between Alexander Elementary and Morehead STEM. They will turn left onto Neal Road and head toward the Northside Christian campus, then head back to the Alexander/Morehead parking lot.

Queen City Timing is handling logistics for the USATF certified course. The registration fee is $25 but will increase to $30 on race day.

Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at

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