GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The founder of a Grand Rapids nonprofit is looking to expand esports opportunities for the city’s underserved youth.
Deandre ‘Dee’ Jones is the Chief Energy Officer of the Grand Rapids nonprofit Jump Ahead L3C, which works with local underserved youth through service learning projects.
“My goal is really to just create the best of the best opportunities that we can for our community, for our students, for generations of students to come, and do it equitably, fair and just,” Jones said.
One of Jones’ latest undertaking is stepping into the world of esports.
“I’ve been a gamer just growing up. So I always just loved video games and I was like, I know people are starting to get paid, people are starting to do competitions and people are starting to fill up venues and arenas and convention centers,” Jones said.
Now he wants to share competitive gaming opportunities with youth that may have not had a seat at the table before.
“There’s not a lot of access to these opportunities,” Jones said. “It’s very important that we get the youth any type of positive activity, something that can help them grow, something that they’re passionate about.”
On April 22, Jones is hosting a free esports tournament at Four Star Theatre on Grand Rapids’ southside. Participants will play NBA 2K with a chance to win $1,000. Jones said representatives from some local colleges, members of the Grand Rapids Gold, and organizations involved with gaming will be in attendance.
Jones said he wants young people to realize if you dream, it can come true.
“That you can create that video game, that you can be that game developer, that you can work on esports productions, that you can be a professional gamer, that you can get a full education to go to a college or university,” Jones said.
The upcoming competition is just the tip of the iceberg. As some U.S. cities report bringing in thousands and even millions of dollars from esports and video gaming, Jones envisions it can happen in Grand Rapids as well.
“A place where people, big companies can actually come build video games and our talent and students and college graduates can come here … they can inspire people with their dreams and goals and their art,” Jones said.
Jones also wants the tournament to bring attention to Four Star Theatre which is undergoing revitalization efforts.
The esports competition will run from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. and will be live streamed on Twitch. Sign-up will continue through April 20.