In Florida, a grant offered St. Lucie Public Schools the opportunity to implement an esports program that would benefit students, schools, and the community

One district’s journey to esports success

In Florida, a grant offered St. Lucie Public Schools the opportunity to implement an esports program that would benefit students, schools, and the community

When St. Lucie Public Schools was awarded the Magnet School Assistance Program Grant in 2017, the district was able to revitalize three schools within the school district: Creative Arts Academy, Samuel Gaines Academy of Emerging Technologies and Fort Pierce Westwood Academy: The WEST Prep Magnet. Part of this revitalization was to discover and build unique programs of interest that would gain the attention of students throughout the school district.

St. Lucie Public Schools began exploring the possibility of building an esports program at Fort Pierce Westwood Academy, its new magnet high school, in the spring of 2019. The district team met with various companies attempting to launch esports initiatives throughout the country, however those partners did not seem to have the vision that St. Lucie was looking for.

Related content: 8 tips to launch your own esports program

In April 2019, the magnet team participated in the Southeast STEM Ecosystem Convening was introduced to the founder of the North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF), and the vision for esports in the district came to life.

Many of the programs the team reviewed previously were focused on “gaming just for gaming,” but the magnet team realized the uniqueness of the NASEF program. It focused on students’ academic achievement, in addition to providing a career-focused platform that was a game changer for the vision of the program. At that point, the district’s esports initiative was off and running.

Fort Pierce Westwood Academy was selected to be the showcase school for St. Lucie Public Schools, becoming the only school in the district to implement an esports program and becoming the only high school on the Treasure Coast to join the Florida league.

The esports program at Fort Pierce Westwood Academy began with the design and implementation of the Esports Lab, which was supported through grant funding. The club startup was initiated with a student interest survey that reflected that a vast number of students were interested in participating. The lab, designed in partnership with Microsoft, includes 14 gaming stations with MSi Trident Gaming PCs with HyperX Gaming Headsets, gaming mice and gaming keyboards, and 4 Smart TVs with 3 Nintendo Switches. The Nintendo Switches donated by NASEF.

The magnet team took a leadership role in helping develop the first Florida cohort of the Florida Scholastic Esports League (FLSEL) as a component of NASEF. In working with 12 other districts throughout the state, we began working to focus on the curriculum pathway for the schools to be centered around computer science and the elements of esports business, game design, marketing, and event management.

As part of the NASEF community, students are challenged to create their team logo, team website, and try their hand at shout casting. These marketable, future-ready skills can lead to a career or move them forward in their academics. This truly supports NASEF’s and St. Lucie’s vision of reinforcing the esports ecosystem, which brings every component of gaming together.

“Esports affords students to have an opportunity to showcase their gaming, tech and business knowledge while collaborating with classmates at all grade levels. They are learning the true meaning of ‘teamwork,’ but in a fun and engaging ‘gamified’ way,” says Laurie Boyer, Outreach & Recruitment Specialist and District Technology Support Specialist.

The focus supports interest-driven learning for students that connects playing and learning, which ignites personal growth and academic achievement. Hundreds of colleges and universities are implementing esports programs that provide scholarships for students. Esports is like any other sport that promotes teamwork, leadership skills, accountability, commitment, and respect.

NASEF hosts multiple tournaments throughout the year that connect students on a national and global platform for esports. This has provided the students at Fort Pierce Westwood Academy the chance to gain a new global perspective into the world of Esports. This is an amazing opportunity, especially due to the fact that the school is an identified Title I school, where many families are economically disadvantaged. Tournament play affords students the chance to connect with colleges and universities for scholarships to help many of our students realize their dreams of furthering their education.

Scholastic esports has truly ignited community awareness as to what esports programs can provide, such as college scholarships, job skills, and more. It has greatly impacted community and parent buy-in, which has brought us all to the same playing field as we grow the esports initiatives for the district.

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