MIAMI (WSVN) - One South Florida high school is creating a digital space for its students that are not interested in physical sports, turning a love for video games into college scholarships and career opportunities.
Playing video games has evolved.
Matthew Moreno is a sophomore at Christopher Columbus High School and he cannot believe the time he gets to spend in the school’s room dedicated to online gamers.
“The thought of having a gaming room here at school is outlandish, laughable even,” he said.
While it sounds funny to most, starting a program for students who have no desire to play conventional sports was no joke for the school.
“We’re always elevating the bar we allow the kids to explore ways of doing things that interest them the most and this was an example of one of those things,” said Alex Seage, a faculty member at the school.
Julian Gonzalez, a sophomore, is the president of Columbus Esports and he shares his thoughts on the program.
“It’s an amazing opportunity we have here,” said Gonzalez. “We can play against so many schools. It’s crazy how much this career has expanded in the future”.
According to the National Education Association, nearly 9,000 high schools in the US have Esports teams and programs.
Frank Azor is the co-founder of the Columbus Esports program and while he attended the high school, he was more into technology than athletics.
“It’s very personal for me because when I came to this school 25 years ago it was all about sports,” said Azor. “Now I’m hoping kids have somewhere to go now where they can take their passion. This is going to change the lives of a lot of kids and hopefully, it’s more than just fun and games.”
Not many high schools compete online against other high schools with similar programs, but competitions are just as relentless as traditional prep sports with district, regionals, and state championships.
Students are also getting an opportunity to be part of a team environment and even presenting the possibility of scholarships at the college level.
“Several parents use to say ‘You’re not going to make money,’ [or] ‘You’re not going to go to school,'” said Eddie Sanchez, the co-founder of the Esports program. “Nowadays colleges are going out and recruiting. Some schools are even giving full rides just because you’re good at those games. It’s amazing, it’s fantastic.
“I think that it levels the playing field,” said Moreno. “People will see the jocks and the nerds, you will see a lot of gamers in schools feel very excluded in micro-social spaces and now that it’s becoming more inclusive, it also grants them a ton of opportunities.”
These students also have a chance to win plenty of money.
“Playing video games can make them a lot more money than you and I make,” said football coach turned esports coach, Andrew Harriman. “These kids are making millions of dollars playing video games.”
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