It’s hard to pack for vacation when no one in the family knows where they’re going, how long they’ll be there and what they’ll do.
The Black family of Woodbridge – Reggie and Kimberly, and their children Kenneth and Austin – faced that dilemma with the hopes of winning a $1 million prize at the end of a 30-day intercontinental race.
For the second season in a row, Prince William County locals competed in “The Amazing Race,” CBS’s traveling scavenger hunt reality show.
The Blacks’ television debut airs Sept. 27 at 9 p.m. on the show’s eighth edition, one rearranged to include teams of four related persons, instead of two people with any combination of relationship.
In season seven, which aired in March, Woodbridge High School teacher and Lake Ridge native Bianca Smith and her childhood friend, Debbie Cloyed, formerly of Lake Ridge, raced around the globe. Their travels were cut short when they were eliminated in the third episode.
Like other seasons, the Blacks raced around the world toward a finish line. At every destination teams compete in a series of challenges, some mental and some physical. When tasks are completed, they learn their next destination. Teams that are farthest behind are gradually eliminated as the contest continues. The first team to arrive at the final destination wins the prize money.
The Blacks competed against nine other families in the race, taped this summer. Contracts with CBS forbid any of the participants to speak with members of the press until they are eliminated from the show or have won the prize.
Austin, 8, is the youngest person to ever compete in the race. While other teams have children, most are grown.
Other teams include all siblings, step-parents and in-laws.
Reggie, 42, serves as the team leader and taught math at Hylton High School from 2000 to 2004.
Amanda Jewell, 19, of Woodbridge had him for Algebra and trigonometry during her junior year at Hylton. She described him as laid back and personable, but strong willed.
“When it was time to get the job done, he got the job done,” she said.
Her teacher was a student favorite, she said, and always looked forward.
“He would never give up on a student, so I know he would put that toward his kids and his family,” she said.
Kimberly, 40, is a fifth-grade teacher in the city of Alexandria who describes herself in her show biography as witty and determined. She and Reggie met as students at Norfolk State University. Kimberly also has a master’s degree in education from Marymount University.
Whatever the task, this family works as a unit, said Gisele Estrada, a family friend.
“They’re very supportive of one another, and they communicate that to each other,” Estrada said. Reggie and Kimberly’s background as teachers led to effective listening and communicating skills, she said.
The family is competitive, she said, but not “cutthroat.” They work together to achieve goals, and talk about what went wrong if the goal wasn’t reached, she said.
The entire family participates in Tae Kwon Do. Reggie and Kimberly take adult Tae Kwon Do classes as well as participate in classes with their children.
Kenneth, 11, is entering sixth grade and earned a black belt two years ago. Austin will enter fourth grade this year. He has an advanced brown belt. The boys also compete in soccer and swimming.
Both boys are smart and studious, said Estrada, who has a son of the same age as Kenneth.
“They are so competitive and they love to get their hands in [things],” she said.
Though the Blacks don’t claim to be as well traveled as other teams, Estrada thinks it will motivate them.
“It will drive Kenneth and Austin to do the best they can,” she said.
Brenda Bumbrey, an office assistant at Hylton, said she wasn’t surprised her former co-worker went on the show.
“He’s a go-getter when it comes to a dollar bill,” she said. Reggie would often teach summer school and night school to make extra money.
“He’s always trying to make his family as comfortable as possible,” she said.