High School Esports League joins forces with charitable foundation

LRP Media Group launches Academic Esports Conference & Expo for next October
By: | October 22, 2019
Photo by Alex Haney/Unsplash

$37. That’s all it takes to have a student participate in esports, according to the High School Esports League.

It’s why the HSEL’s new partnership with charity Varsity Esports Foundation, made official on Tuesday, is so valuable. By joining forces, the two organizations believe they can serve a larger pool of under-resourced K-12 students, hit future financial goals and enhance the learning environment for children interested in STEM programs and esports.

“Esports provides a sense of community and opportunity for students, affecting their lives in profound ways for years to come,” said Mason Mullenioux, co-founder and CEO of HSEL. “Thanks to charitable contributions made by private and public institutions to VESF, we’ve been able to support over 2,100 schools, which adds up to about 60,000 students and 120,000 parents, teachers, and administrators. … We believe that esports begins at the high school level, and every dollar helps us make that belief a reality for students across the country.”

The HSEL and VESF both cite the positive impacts and growth esports is having throughout K-12 and higher ed – from academic achievement to improved engagement to career development. Both admit, however, there are more students to reach; so VESF is helping support HSEL-partnered schools and their STEM.org-certified programs by financing league fees, equipment and scholarships.

“In 2019, VESF awarded roughly $200,000 in grants and scholarships to students across North America,” said Bubba Gaeddert, executive director of VESF, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that is hoping to surpass that in 2020 and hit $300,000.

In addition to its financial assistance, VESF’s initiatives promote:

  • Academics;
  • the practice of healthy lifestyles and mental health awareness; and
  • helping students connect with fellow classmates to discourage bullying and promote diversity and inclusion in high schools.

LRP launches Academic Esports Conference and Expo

LRP Media Group is launching the inaugural Academic Esports Conference & Expo, to be held October 19-21, 2020, at the Hilton Chicago.

The conference, the first to be completely dedicated to esports and academics, will provide K-12 and collegiate administrators, esports faculty and technology leaders with the tools and structure needed to help launch and advance esports programs and transform learning for all students.

“We are excited to be hosting a conference for K-12, higher ed and technology partners that blends the cutting-edge world of esports with education,” said Chris Burt, Academic Esports Conference Chair. “The global esports industry is $1+ billion and growing every day. One of its fastest-growing segments is in schools, where the benefits for students are immeasurable. Our event will provide attendees with unprecedented insight from top experts on the best practices for not only implementing a successful program but also taking it to the next level.”

As with LRP Media Group’s Future of Education Technology® Conference and UB Tech® Conference, the event will offer a robust learning experience. In addition to in-depth sessions on implementing and administering esports, attendees will learn strategies that leverage both academics and the latest technology to make programs run well.

“To be able to get advice and instruction from the best in the field and then be able to network with those thought leaders and top vendors is really unique,” Burt says. “We are gathering input from experts in the K-12 and higher-ed space who are at the forefront of building programs and heading associations, and who understand the ever-changing nature of gaming and its impact on education. It will be an incredibly fun, collaborative learning environment for attendees.”

Registration opens in February, but LRP is already seeking speakers for the event. Those who would like to submit proposals can visit the website here.

Across the Keyboard

STEAM STUDENTS EXPERIENCE JOY OF ESPORTS: The Longview News-Journal recently ran an uplifting article on the fun esports is bringing to young students in Texas. With the backing of nonprofit Thirsty Minds Design & Media, Bramlette STEAM Academy and Ned E. Williams Magnet STEAM Academy gave third-graders the chance to compete and win prizes – getting to pick toys from a bucket. The nonprofit’s founder, Joe Manns, told the News-Journal he started the program to let at-risk youths experience video games. “It’s a career alternative — especially those kids that come from impoverished homes, single-parent homes, those who are in juvenile detention — showing them something different, showing them something they care about. Kids love games,” said Manns. Another special reward for students: getting to meet former Minnesota Vikings player Chase Baker. “It’s a myth that kids are alone in their basement playing by themselves and being anti-social,” Baker told the News-Journal. “A lot of the kids that might have those issues, those anxieties, you see them connect through the game.”

ALASKA TO HAWAII, THEY’RE STARTING UP: Last week, we wrote about a middle school league being developed in New Jersey that includes a team in Alaska. At Nome High School, coach Aaron Blankenship has 10 students ready to play League of Legends and Rocket League, but the only issue, as radio station KNOM reports, is “having the necessary operating systems” to compete. The team recently had to forfeit its first match. But help is on the way. The school is getting five new computers donated from the office of a high-ranking state official: Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. … On the heels of as successful pilot program, the Hawaii High School Athletics Association is readying for an even bigger launch – dubbed ‘Season One’ – its first season of competitive esports. Some 23 schools were on board for the pilot through PlayVS, with kids competing in Rocket League, League of Legends and Smite.

A FIRST IN NEW MEXICO: Buoyed by growing demand and an increase in participation, Albuquerque Public Schools will host their first-ever esports district tournament. During an interview with radio station KRQE, La Cueva High School senior Max Todd spoke about the opportunities and the impact esports has had on his life, saying, “I’ve had the most fun I’ve ever had in my schooling career, playing esports. It’s insane that it could actually help me with college and help me afford to go somewhere so I can achieve my big dreams for the world.” Coaches such as Dave Ryan say the makeup of his team is uniquely diverse. “I’ve got academic champions, I’ve got state sports champions, as well as kids who have never been in a club or a team,” Ryan told KRQE.

MAIN STAGE FOR COLLEGE ATHLETES: DreamHack, a massive national festival for all things gaming, returns to Atlanta and the Georgia World Congress Center Nov. 15-17. One of the really cool features again this year is a high school Fortnite tournament for Georgia students that will run on Sunday. They will be battling it out on the Atlanta Main Stage in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Attendees also will be able to watch professionals compete in esports tournaments with hundreds of $1.5 million on the line.

JACKSONVILLE BUILDING ANOTHER ESPORTS ARENA: Less than two years after a tragic shooting incident during a Madden esports tournament effectively closed the Good Luck Have Fun bar at the Jacksonville Landing in Florida, an entrepreneur is opening Ace Arena in a different part of the city, hoping to cater to a wide cross-section of  enthusiasts, including those in K-12. Founder John Sarmie says it will be a “space for education, training, camps and community events.” According to reports, Ace will have more than 120 gaming systems and a stage with a video projection wall for live entertainment. The arena also will be a place for kids to get involved in an esports league and learn about academic and career opportunities.

Interested in esports? Keep up with LRP’s Academic Esports Conference.

Chris Burt is LRP’s Editor for Esports and the Chair for the Academic Esports Conference and Expo, which is Oct. 19-21, 2020, at the Hilton Chicago.  

Interested in edtech? Keep up with DA's Future of Education Technology Conference®.