Involving students in esports gives them a 'why,' which is a powerful motivator in helping involve them in school each day.

How to engage at-risk students through esports


Involving students in esports gives them a 'why,' which is a powerful motivator in helping involve them in school each day

It is well documented that extracurricular activities boost academic success. In recent years, schools have tried to broaden the traditional extracurricular definition to appeal to a more diverse, and often disengaged, group of students who are at-risk of dropping out of high school.  Esports just might be the natural fit.

Lack of Engagement Leads to Hopelessness

Summer Jibril was a 16-year-old high school sophomore, and she was in a bad place.  Suffering from diagnosed depression and anxiety since her middle school years, she sat on the edge of her bed and contemplated her next move.

“I was in crisis,” Jibril said. “I literally couldn’t physically force myself to get up and get dressed for school.  My mind just kept repeating, ‘What’s the point?’”

That day would be Jibril’s twenty-fifth absence for the school year.  Like 20 percent of her peers across the United States, Jibril was considered chronically absent. According to the U.S. Department of Education, chronically absent students are defined as missing 15 or more days of school. Along with being seven times more likely to drop out of school than their peers, chronically absent students are more likely to experience poverty, have more health issues and have involvement in the criminal justice system.

“I just didn’t feel like I had any reason to go to school,” said Jibril.

Luckily for her, Jibril’s district, USD 266 in Maize, Kansas, had an alternative school for at-risk students that included a new after-school esports team and first-of-its kind elective credit esports class called Gaming Concepts.

“The minute I walked in, I knew things were going to be different,” said Jibril.  “All of a sudden, I had a ‘why’.”

Giving Students a ‘Why’

Esports as an extracurricular activity is growing exponentially in the United States and around the world. The High School Esports League is the largest league in the United States with over 3,400 schools.  In addition, HSEL has committed to investing heavily in education by partnering with the North America Scholastic Esports Federation and leaning on educators to create “purposeful play” for students through curriculum that focuses on STEM, college and career readiness, and social emotional learning.  

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