MILWAUKEE — This summer, for the first time ever, students at Milwaukee Public Schools can take a class to explore Esports. It could help open the door to a career in a billion-dollar industry.
It's one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, and it's played on a screen. Competitive video gaming is known as Esports or electronic sports. Gaming leagues say the Esports industry has already had a huge economic impact on Wisconsin, creating more than $300 million in revenue.
Steven Devougas is getting ready to enter 8th grade. "I do plan to work for Google, and maybe Microsoft," the MPS student explained as he stood outside his summer school classroom.
It's already pretty clear that Steven will someday wind up as someone's boss. "It's actually pretty easy to build your own PC," he remarked. "It's sort of like Legos." He wants a job in software engineering or coding. First, he's planning on college and this summer — he'll get a crash course. Steven is one of 15 students enrolled in MPS' inaugural IT and Esports class. And yes... that means they are playing video games in school.
"Esports is a burgeoning industry — a billion dollar industry," said Wendell Willis, the executive director of Milwaukee Public Schools Foundation. "But also, at the high school and college level there are Esports teams and Esports curriculum."
The MPS Foundation is providing the funding that will make it possible for students like Steven to immerse themselves in the industry of Esports, and also to learn skills that can accelerate entry into a large number of tech-related careers.
"It's pretty simple," continued Willis. "When we look and see that our students don't have something that maybe their suburban or other counterparts would have, we want to make sure that MPS students have that exact same equivalent — if not better."
The first-ever Esports class at Hamilton High School is full and already there is a waitlist for the next one. "My phone was just going bananas from parents and kids that wanted to sign up," said Abbey Diedrich, the director of career development at New Horizons of Wisconsin.
Collaboration with New Horizons and the MKE Sports Alliance will bring instructors and experts into the classroom including a former Green Bay Packers star, Ahman Green, who is now the head coach of Esports at Lakeland University. Diedrich said guest speakers like Green help students visualize finding their own success.
Aside from learning real-world, workforce skills students who take the course may also open themselves up to Esports scholarship opportunities. Several colleges are starting to offer full tuition and Pennsylvania's Harrisburg University now offers 22 full-ride scholarships, each year, to Esports players.