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Centennial District explores confluence of gaming, education


A new cooperative agreement called “Level Up” is taking high school students’ passion for gaming and turning it into both a competitive sport and a career path, said Centennial School District Superintendent Dr. Dana T. Bedden and Metro Esports CEO Shaon Berry, at a Jan. 23 school board meeting.

The program, aimed at “engaging our students and meeting them where they are,” they said, is a combined effort among Centennial’s William Tennent High School, the Warminster Branch of the YMCA of Bucks and Hunterdon Counties and Metro ESports, of Warminster.

Bedden and Berry explained in a promotional video that they are “redefining what it means to be an athlete,” and providing “pathways academically and professionally” for young people.

Studies have shown that being engaged with sports correlates to leadership potential.

“Level Up” enables students who might not otherwise be involved in sports because they are not traditional athletes to “engage, compete and make friends,” within their video game arena, said Ari Evans, Metro Esports vice president of operations.

Bedden said the program not only exposes students to technology, but also “builds problem-solving skills, team-building skills and self-confidence.”

“Metro Esports is engaging our students,” said Bedden, who predicted that esports could become a PIAA sport in the near future. He said 250 colleges now offer esports scholarships.

“Level Up” started three years ago with Centennial’s William Tennent High School students and the Warminster YMCA as both summer programs and after-school activities, which will continue in 2024.

“Since a lot of gamers are interested in the technology field or the coding industry,” this program offers them the opportunity to learn about it while hanging out with friends and playing games competitively, said Evans.

The 45 William Tennent students currently participating in the program are not only learning how to compete and engage with one another, but they are also participating in internships through ExcitED, another partner with Metro Esports. Co-founders Steve Beal and Ignacio Jayo offer paid internships to students interested in gaming design or computer science. The internships provide “ready skills in content marketing and social media skills,” said Jayo, and also provides them the opportunity to learn “soft-skills that will put them ahead of their peers when they look for other internships or career opportunities.”

At the high school, Natalie Richey, a BCIT Teacher (Business, Computer and Information Technology) is excited to have her students involved in the program. She teaches courses such as Game Design and Computer Science and agrees it’s an excellent opportunity for students to get excited and involved with Metro Esports.

Logan McGowan, a student at William Tennent, participated in one of the ExcitED internships and spoke highly of the entire “Level Up” program. He said he and his peers were given real-world problems to solve and allowed to “use their own creativity” to do so. Another student — Kenneth Nieves — said that playing video games competitively enables the “adrenaline to kick up” and have an “usah” moment.

To learn more about how to get involved with this program or to watch the video, see the YouTube video link here:

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