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Gear Up for Esports

Oklahoma public schools statewide have entered into the world of Esports. This has been made possible by organizations around the state providing the resources necessary to compete.

One such organization is the K20 center, a research center dedicated to providing extra-curricular activities.

The K20 center provides a three Gear Up grants to public schools across Oklahoma that focuses on family engagement, mentoring, and professional development. Schools can use those grants to develop extra-curricular activities.

One such extra-curricular activity that has developed recently in Oklahoma public schools is Esports. Many of the Gear Up grants have gone into helping schools develop their Esports programs.

Michael Agular, director and founder of OU Esports, found out about the Esports program through a colleague who wanted to know who was funding these newly developed Esports programs.

“That kicked off the outreach to say… ‘who’s in charge of whatever this is?’” Aguilar said.

He first reached out to K20 workers he knew and found out that Lindsay Hawkins and Lindsay Williams were in charge of Esports outreach for K20.

“We had a wonderful, ridiculously deep one-hour conversation about what OU is building and [OU Esports and K20] started to form an alignment there,” Aguilar said.

Research for Esports

When Williams was first presented with the idea of esports, she had no idea what Esports was. 

“I was like, ‘Are you kidding?’” Williams said, “But if the research is there, I was like ‘Okay’”.

Williams, Hawkins and the K20 professional development team did research into esports and found data that followed the goals of Gear Up. What they found was that Esports could reach out to many students who had not been reached out to before.

According to their research, benefits included career opportunities, scholarships, socialization, healthier behaviors and more.

“We use (our research) to drive that social and emotional learning,” Hawkins said, “Where are kids that do not participate in sports… and that’s what a lot of our schools are looking at Esports for.”

Oklahoma High School Esports

Esports has been a part of Oklahoma public high schools for a while now. Organizations such as the Oklahoma Esports League and Oklahoma Scholastic Esports have laid out the foundations for Oklahoma high school Esports. Last year, the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activity Association adopted Esports.

OU Esports and K20 hope to continue funding for Esports in Oklahoma. But they do not just want to fund only competition, as that is just a small part of a whole picture.

 “It’s an entertainment industry,” Aguliar said.

K20 is funding for schools to not only have ways for students to compete, but to also put on production.

“That’s been my mantra for K-12 is to get more production resources going,” Aguliar said.

Gear Up Grants

With the K20 grants, schools are able to provide resources to compete, shoutcast and do streaming production.

Schools use the Gear Up grants to provide spaces for students to compete, complete with high-end gaming computers, modern game consoles, headsets, controllers, anything and everything a student needs to compete in and produce Esports.

Students who cannot afford gaming setups are able to find a place to compete. These spaces provide essential social hubs for students to interact, collaborate and compete. 

OU Esports News and Media will be covering these schools in future articles and videos. The teams will provide in-depth interviews and look into how OU Esports and K20 are changing the way public schools look at Esports.

The focus of these future articles will be on MacArthur High School in Lawton and Sallisaw High School. It’s not just urban schools that are developing Esports, all Oklahoma schools, from rural to urban, are developing Esports to its fullest potential.

Stay tuned in the coming months for more on Oklahoma public schools’ endeavor into Esports.

This article was updated on June 6, 2022 include the Oklahoma Scholastic Esports and the Oklahoma Esports League. They have provided many students opprotunites to compete in Esports and should be recognized for their imprtance. 

Cooper Marshall

Cooper Marshall is a junior print journalism major minoring in social justice at the University of Oklahoma. He is the current News Lead of OU Esports News and Media. He enjoys biking, hiking, movies, and of course video games. While he's not a very competitive guy and prefers single-player games, he can totally beat you at Mario Kart.

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