Heritage Esports Team competes in new facility designed for their success

Posted: November 10, 2022

The Governor's STEM Academy magnet program at Heritage High School recently celebrated the grand opening of its Esports Lab, a room designed to give the school's Esports team the resources to compete successfully with other teams across the country and around the world.

The lab features not only monitors and gaming computers and consoles, but also a flat screen display, a glass whiteboard, and a rug and special seating where the team can strategize. From the facilitator's desk, the team's coach Macario Castro is able to observe the action. Special acoustic tiles over the gamers' desks absorb sound, and the room incorporates Heritage High School's colors.

Toinette Outland, Career and Technical Education Supervisor for Newport News Public Schools, worked with ODP Business Solutions, the school system's contracted vendor for office furniture and equipment, to design and plan the lab.

Amy Bowes, senior key account manager for ODP said, "After visiting and measuring the space at Heritage, our workspace Interiors team offered several design and layout recommendations for the room, incorporating the Heritage High School color scheme into all selections. We arranged for a discounted purchase through a cooperative contract NNPS leverages through us."

The discussion and planning during the next 18 months resulted in an impressive facility that inspired students from several of the school's career pathways to join the team. ODP consulted with Esports experts at Lenovo, who made recommendations for best equipping the team.

The students have visited Esports labs at Old Dominion University and ECPI to learn how team play can continue after graduation. A number of colleges offer Esports teams and scholarships, and the skills successful players develop can translate into real-world careers.

The Heritage Esports team competes in several games including Splatoon, Hearthstone, Mario Kart, Super Smash Brothers, and League of Legends, and ranks respectably in a region that includes about 200 schools along the East Coast.

Esports conform to Virginia High School League rules for sportsmanship and conduct. Castro, who teaches in the cybersecurity pathway, said, "This is real athletics and not a social club. Students learn to be reliable team members and that this isn't about individual glory."

Students wore their team shirts during the grand opening and demonstrated their skills for those in attendance.

Lenise Cowling, the Governor's STEM Academy program administrator, said, "Governor's STEM Academy students have the opportunity to learn about game design and apply those skills in the Esports Lab. This lab shows the Esports team that their skills and competition are valued by our school and helps students take their skill development in competition seriously. Students on the Esports team are part of our Heritage High athletic community, and they are already showing pride in being provided this space and this equipment so they can represent us well in the sport."

Kelvin Flowers, a junior in the Governor's STEM computer science and game design pathway said, "Esports has given me an opportunity to finally be part of a team, and feel like I belong. I have never had this experience before."

Eleventh grader Jamyah Smith is also studying computer science and game design and said, "I like being on the Esports team because we work together. I have learned a lot about teamwork, problem solving, and leadership skills. My future goal is to become a computer engineer or a game designer and being part of this team has given me the voice and confidence I need to pursue my dreams."

Castro sees real value in the pursuit of the sport. "The Esports Lounge, and Esports Program in general, gives students the chance to explore a potential academic and career path that is directly tied to their love of videogames and competitive gaming. The program cultivates leadership skills, critical thinking skills, and foster a sense of kinship and comradery. The Partnership between the Magnet Program and the Esports Program allows us to reach out to our magnet students and expose them to other afterschool activities and bolster that sense of school pride and community, and it exposes students who may not know that their love of gaming and technology has a place in the classroom, such as in the Cybersecurity or Game Development and Programming pathways."