The Emerald Foundation, a community center and collaborative hub for non-profits located in Lancaster, PA. is a recent recipient of a PAsmart Grant. The goal is to develop a pilot program in Pennsylvania to generate exposure and interest in computer science careers through the jumpstarting formation of esports clubs in southeastern Pennsylvania.
The Emerald Foundation historically has been community-focused. Its community offerings include the “Access to Opportunity” After School Program, Autumns Food Pantry, the Rise and Shine program for life skills training, and now, with additional funding support from the PASmart Grant, esports programming.
The motivation to expand into esports is grounded in the research and educational approach of the North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF). This approach leverages esports as a way to help teens acquire life and job skills while promoting social and emotional learning. It is important to keep in mind that NASEF uses esports/video games as a platform for education.
What that means precisely is that esports are seen as an entirely scholastic endeavor. It does not emphasize the competitive side of esports, nor does it focus on the “path to pro” ideology. Instead, esports, like video games in general, are team-based endeavors imparting valuable social emotional learning and the growth of individual professional skills.
That approach still allows plenty of opportunity to delve into the joy and demands of esports. Through NASEF, the Emerald Foundation offers more than a dozen toolkits written by industry professionals that equip teachers and esports clubs with information from industry professionals about developing basic skills in various esports-related career pathways.
Webinars and clinics are offered by pro esports coaches and subject-matter experts on topics ranging from healthy gaming to team-building to specific game strategies. Coaches are provided to teams, and they focus on club members’ social-emotional development, as well as the next game.
The Emerald Foundation’s goal is to have this program be a force across the United States. Pennsylvania is its strongest foothold on the East Coast with 32 current active NASEF clubs, but the goal of the Emerald Foundation and NASEF is to see growth across all of North America. There are now clubs in 39 U.S. states in addition to an increasing amount of Canadian provinces. It is easy to see why.