Gear-Up for an Amazing Race

Emileen Dearden, Cambree Dearden, and Kaylyn Lockwood complete the last stop on their Amazing Race journey, an obstacle course with a sweet treat at the end. // Courtesy of Nancy Bannister

Nancy Bannister walked to 13 different locations downtown before making her way to the Triangle to set up a white canopy. It was Monday, June 20, and time for the Gear-Up Amazing Race.

Bannister is the Gear-Up outreach specialist and academic coach for the area. Gear-Up is a federal program that’s main goal is to help first generation students go to college, Bannister said. Usually, the program in Kemmerer hosts summer camps, college tours, and even a science camp in Teton National Park for junior high students.

“This year we were planning on doing a statewide tour of colleges,” Bannister said.

But, as with most things this year, everything was canceled because of COVID-19.

“I wanted to do something this summer,” Bannister said. “I wanted the kids to have something.” This is how the Gear-Up Amazing Race started. There were 13 stops at businesses around downtown Kemmerer, each with a question or task related to college. The Kemmerer Gazette hosted a question about financial aid, while others had math, specific scholarships, etc.

When Bannister first reached out to students with the idea, many were excited to participate. But as the day grew closer, more teams dropped out.

“When I first asked, they didn’t have jobs. Now most of them have jobs,” Bannister said. There is also the worry of COVID-19, Bannister said.

“Most people have had an ‘eh’ attitude towards events since [COVID-19] started,” Bannister said. Unfortunately, only one team showed up for the Amazing Race.

“The girls had a lot of fun though,” Bannister said. “Tracy and Darlene from the rec center thought this was a great idea for a last day of school activity.”

The main goal of the event was to educate students in a fun, socially responsible way. Many first-generation students struggle with going to college because no one in their family can help them prepare, Bannister said.

“Many students are scared to leave and have parents who have never experienced it,” Bannister said. “My job is to help them to succeed in any way I can.” She is hoping that activities for Gear-Up can start back up again during the school year. But because of COVID-19, everything is up in the air.

“I’m not sure I will be able to have the same access to students this year with everything going on,” Bannister said. “COVID-19 has changed everything.”

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