Parkesburg Point will put pandemic funding to good use. (LUCAS ROGERS – MEDIANEWS GROUP)
PARKESBURG—During the COVID pandemic, the Parkesburg POINT came up with a novel approach to reaching youths who would benefit from their services– they started an esports program. Esports had already been steadily gaining popularity even before the pandemic, but with things shut down, and kids attending school remotely, interest in gaming exploded.
The team at The POINT recognized the growing popularity of esports, and that they wouldn’t be going away anytime soon, but also saw that there was potential harm in kids getting too wrapped up in the world of online gaming to the point where it was almost an addiction. So, they developed a program to meet the kids where they were, while also ensuring that their curriculum would address some of the issues that are inherent to gaming.
“We have a built-in curriculum in our esports program, and the curriculum is based on dealing with all the potential pitfalls that come with gaming. We look at the health part of it, and also the eating and nutrition part of it, they often have unhealthy nutritional habits, and they’re at risk of depression,” said Dwayne Walton, Executive Director at THE POINT. “There’s a significant number of gamers who suffer from depression, and gamers have a higher potential for depression than non-gamers.”
Participants in the esports program don’t spend their entire time at THE POINT playing video games. In addition to receiving information on nutrition and wellness, they are also required to participate in physical activity as a key element of the program. “They’re getting exercise,” Walton said. “We have a boxing fitness program that many of them participate in. We also have a nutrition program, and we serve a healthy meal every night, so our program is showing how gaming can be done in a healthy way.”
The POINT will be using federal ARPA funds designated for Chester County to pay for staff to maintain and expand the esports program, as well as to hire an academic coordinator to expand its tutoring program, to provide increased academic support for students participating in the program.
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