Chris Princen, Connor Worthen

Gillette High School student Chris Princen, right, runs by individuals as Connor Worthen throws color on him during the HSI Color Run on Wednesday afternoon at the University of Wyoming.

A boisterous and enthusiastic collection of about 90 high school students endured afternoon heat and clouds of colored powder Wednesday afternoon to raise money to combat domestic violence.

The HSI 5k Color Run, hosted by the University of Wyoming Summer High School Institute, took place Wednesday afternoon at UW. The inaugural event was one of the culminating activities of the summer institute, which aims to give a college-like experience to rising high school juniors from around the state.

Proceeds from the event will be donated to the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, as decided by a vote among the students.

Elena Garcia, a student from Lovell, said she and the rest of the students spent the day building their excitement for the race. In addition to students, runners and walkers included family members, Laramie residents and past institute participants.

“I think we’re all pretty enthusiastic about what’s going on right now,” Garcia said.

Halfway through the race course, volunteers doused the passing runners, most of them wearing white T-shirts, with clouds of colored powder. Some runners sped through the gauntlet as fast as possible, while others slowed and spread their arms to absorb as much color as they could.

Rene Sanchez, who coordinates the Summer High School Institute, said the group raised almost $700 through donations and entry fees.

“We’re really proud of that,” she said.

The institute, established more than 30 years ago, draws students from across the state. The application process includes a letter, essay and letters of recommendation, but Sanchez said there’s no GPA requirement. The three-week program is free except for an activity fee.

“We want those creative kids, those kids who want more,” she said. “Maybe their grades don’t reflect a 4.0 (GPA), but if they’re making an initiative to apply to this, and they’ve got that imagination and creativity, we’re going to take a look at them.”

During the institute, students take two classes from UW professors, one in the sciences and one in the humanities. Topics include robotics, gardening, ethnic studies, social inequality and astronomy, among others. Students live in dorms, eat at the dining hall and participate in enrichment activities and community outreach.

Sanchez said almost half the participants end up coming back to UW as college students.

Matthew Painter, an associate professor in the UW Department of Sociology, has taught at the institute for several years. This summer, he taught a class on social inequality that included readings, discussions and exercises. The class covered education, social class, gender and race.

He said the institute was a way to give students a glimpse at college life as they begin to consider their next steps after high school.

“It’s a great opportunity to reach kids at a relatively early age — they’re halfway through high school — and to show them not only what college is about in terms of the substance but also the rigor,” he said.

Garcia said one highlight of her time on campus was meeting new people in a diverse, inclusive environment.

“It’s just amazing to see peoples’ perspectives and opinions on stuff, and seeing how different people act, and where they come from and how that shapes who they are,” she said.

Kyla Bush, from Cheyenne, said her basketball coach encouraged her to apply based on his own experience in the program years ago. Bush was surprised that she really enjoyed her robotics class.

“I didn’t ever think I’d be into engineering, but I feel like that might be something I want to do,” she said.

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