One of the main barriers to physical activity for K-12 students is a lack of gym clothes and athletic equipment, such as sneakers. Dr. Hannah Bennett, program director and assistant professor of kinesiology and sports psychology in Augusta University’s College of Education, also studies diversity and inclusion in sports performance.
She created the Gearing Up initiative to collect gently used gym clothes and athletic equipment to donate to K-12 students.
“The Gearing Up initiative was an idea born out of New Year’s Day. On New Year’s Day, there’s a ‘new year, new me’ mentality, where people buy a bunch of new workout clothes and aim to be a healthier version of themselves. But what happens to people’s old workout clothes when they buy new ones?” asked Bennett.
She began to generate an idea to best utilize those gently used athletic clothes by donating them to local K-12 schools.
“In health and physical education teaching programs, we were in the school systems and saw the discrepancies in different K-12 settings in what some students have access to and what some students don’t. Some of that is just basic athletic equipment. Some students don’t have the necessity to bring a change of shoes. Some of them don’t have the necessity to wear athletic clothes to physical education class,” explained Bennett.
She wanted the clothes to go directly to students who need them rather than donating to shops that would resell them. The initiative started on Facebook and grew to become a campus-wide drive for K-12 students.
“I have a mountain of clothes, sneakers and equipment that’s going to be donated,” said Bennett. “We want kids to feel connected to being physically active. We don’t want them to look at physical activity as a burden. We want them to find things that they love.”
When students participate in physical activity, there are numerous benefits academically, emotionally, physically and emotionally.
“In students, we see lower levels of stress, higher levels of self-confidence and higher levels of competence. They learn to communicate and work in teams. We have seen in K-12 setting with standardized testing, we know that being physically active improves academic performance. If we can assist with that, that would be wonderful,” Bennett said.
The Gearing Up initiative will take place every year in January. Bennett is currently working with College of Education Dean Dr. Judi Wilson and the Department of Teaching and Leading to assess which schools will benefit the most from the donation.
“If we as Augusta University can serve our community in this manner, then I think we are doing our moral obligation as an institution. This is a small act that will connect us to the surrounding community,” said Bennett.