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Ysleta ISD first in EP area to include eSports in curriculum

     The Ysleta Independent School District is the first district in El Paso to incorporate eSports into its curriculum for students in pre-K through 12th grade after educators nationwide have praised gaming for its inclusiveness, diversity, and potential to serve as a gateway to college scholarships and high-paying STEM jobs.
     #TheDistricteSports allows students to participate in clubs and/or teams with video games, creating a level playing field and equitable access for all.
     In fact, one Ysleta ISD student – Eastwood High School senior Joshua Jenkins – has accepted a $23,000 scholarship to Clark University in Iowa after he was recruited by the university’s leading eSports coach. Joshua, who only began gaming at school in his junior year, is currently the president of the eSports club at Riverside High School, where he is enrolled half-day at the Career Center.
     “I was a bit quiet at the start of junior year, but eSports helped me socialize and helped my mental state,” Joshua said. “I didn't know much about eSports, and I was nervous for the first tournament I joined – but when I played, I felt better! So, when you ask why I enjoy eSports, it’s because it not only makes me feel better, but it has helped me grow as a person.”
     The eSports program is based on four pillars of importance: Social Emotional Learning (expressing proper emotional control when winning/losing); Health and Wellness (taking care of mental and physical needs, including eating well and achieving balance); Student Voice & Participation (anecdotal evidence has shown eSports helps students come out of their shells, make friends, and become natural leaders); and Academic Success (students demonstrate significant growth in critical thinking skills and questioning).
     All students who participate in Ysleta ISD’s eSports activities must maintain passing grades in all classes, as well as good attendance and behavior. Campus eSports coaches are finding creative ways to motivate students with eSports, including offering morning practice sessions that not only energize students for the school day ahead, but help reduce tardiness.
     ESports also aligns with Ysleta ISD’s revamped College & Career Readiness (CCR) program, as it helps students gain “soft skills” like communication, teamwork and sportsmanship while exposing them to a variety of diverse careers and opportunities.
     It can also serve as a pipeline to college – Ysleta ISD students compete in the High School eSports League (HSEL) and Vanta Leagues, where students can walk away with scholarships and full rides to universities with eSports programs. Vanta Leagues, specifically, allows freshmen to gain scholarships that follow them until they graduate. Reportedly, there are about 200 colleges and universities who offer eSports scholarships.
     “When you think about me getting a $23,000 scholarship, it’s crazy,” Joshua said. “I’m really thankful and glad to be given such a great opportunity.”
     The district also plans to host an eSports expo in the spring for participating Ysleta ISD students, their parents, and possibly university recruiters who will be able to watch juniors and seniors showcase their gaming talents and skills at the event.