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PCSD establishing esports program


The Poughkeepsie City School District is creating an esports program for its middle and high school students.

Esports, a form of competitive video gaming, is a rapidly growing discipline that has already been adopted in secondary schools and colleges across the country. Poughkeepsie is launching its own program beginning in March, competing against other high and middle schools around the region.

Far from their humble beginnings in which straight white paddles volleyed a square ball on “Pong” machines in the 1970s, video games have grown into a multibillion dollar industry featuring realistic experiences and high-definition graphics. In 2018, the Pew Research Center estimated 97 percent of teens play video games.

While many have questioned the benefit of video games on the development of adolescent identity, their popularity and prevalence have been credited for leading many children to a wide array of career pathways, including S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, art and math), finance, marketing, graphic design, programming and health and wellness, among others.

In the context of esports, which can be individual or team-based, video gaming fosters a sense of belonging for more students in the school community. Students who participate in esports develop soft skills such as teamwork, leadership, strategic thinking, decision making, self-confidence, creativity and sportsmanship. Additionally, more than 200 colleges and universities offer partial or full esports scholarships.

Dr. Charles Gallo, assistant superintendent of secondary education, has spearheaded developing two teams to participate in the new eSports program. Fifteen students each from the middle and high schools will be selected as district representatives to compete in the esports program held at the Contender eSports Gaming Center in Wappingers Falls.

Gallo said there are “several advantages” esports have for students.

"In order to win, students must utilize critical thinking skills to develop a strategy that ultimately leads to either completing the game level or defeating the opponent,” he said. “It also fosters teamwork and collaboration, as many games are multiplayer and require players to work collaboratively in order to defeat the opposing team. I am sure this will provide multiple opportunities for our students that they can utilize for everyday life and college and career readiness".

Deana Fino, owner of the Wappingers Contender eSports location, said esports “is the fastest-growing participation activity for ages 12-21 globally. Esports can help fund a portion of a student's education and provide them with an excellent opportunity to meet new people and gain connections for their future."

Contender eSports Hudson Valley, where local high and middle schools practice and compete, manages the only in-house eSports league in the mid-Hudson region.

The Poughkeepsie program will participate in two eight-week seasons, one in the fall and the other in the spring.