Blockbuster esports partnership set to transform K-12 gaming

The HSEL and Middle School Esports League are teaming up with education leader NASEF to bring more fun, more opportunities and more career pathways to students.

For years, two of the largest student-centric esports organizations in the world have operated as friendly foes.

The High School Esports League and its newly created Middle School Esports League have primarily concentrated on the competitive gaming side, while the North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF) has focused largely on helping students build STEM-based and critical-thinking skills central to the industry.

More recently, it has become tough to differentiate the organizations, especially as NASEF started to add more live competitions and the HSEL has focused hard on adding academic pieces.

So, when the organizations – NASEF and HSEL’s parent company Generation Esports – announced today they will combine forces to bring gaming and education together to K-12 students, it was keyboard-jarring, but really makes a lot of sense.

“NASEF has always seen HSEL as the leading provider of K12 esports competitions in the nation,” said Gerald Solomon, founder and executive director of NASEF. “What brings us together are our core values and ethics, the fact that HSEL and NASEF put the students first. That the core focus is on helping children, especially those who are disenfranchised and unengaged succeed, and thrive, is the real opportunity for esports in the world.”

Solomon, the former Executive Director at the Sameuli Foundation, will become President of Global Esports and Education within the HSEL.

This almost unimaginable alliance of national entities will now serve more than 150,000 students and 5,000 schools across 31 countries. Both NASEF and HSEL have experienced meteoric growth in the past two years, showing resiliency during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is expected to continue as schools begin to open up more during the fall.

“We see this venture as a real need for the esports industry,” said Mason Mullenioux, co-founder and CEO of HSEL. “NASEF’s depth of experience in the educational benefits of esports makes it the acknowledged leader of the field, both nationally and globally. It transformed scholastic esports by developing the only program with a true state-credentialed curriculum, using esports as the lens through which STEM/STEAM skills and workforce pathways are defined.”

Photo courtesy of NASEF

What they bring to the table … together

The HSEL’s ability to reach the hardcore gaming crowd – those interested in robust competition through their K-12 schools – does uniquely align with NASEF’s mission to give students opportunities in key roles that go hand-in-hand in esports: designers, marketers, social media managers, camera operators, writers and shoutcasters, just to name a few.

“Our NASEF mission remains the same,” said Todd Harris, board chair of NASEF and founder and CEO of Skillshot Media. “To use esports as a platform to develop STEAM-based skills and social-emotional attributes such as communication, collaboration, and problem-solving abilities needed to thrive in work and in life. HSEL, through the strength of their proven competition program, will attract even more students and allow us to deliver even greater positive impact.”

While HSEL provides massive reach to young gamers across the U.S., NASEF offers incredible global reach through its partnerships in the UK, Japan, Israel and many other countries. The potential for continued growth across the world is substantial. For HSEL participating schools, that means a huge boost on the academic side, where they will be able to access “state-credentialed courses, learning materials, and curricula”.

NASEF has repositioned itself well during the pandemic, becoming its own independent nonprofit entity under a new organization called the World Wide Scholastic Esports Foundation, while recently announcing a partnership with the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) that will improve career pathways for students to higher education. For educators, NASEF has so much to offer – from the curriculum piece and huge learning opportunities through Minecraft, to newly arriving game titles such as Hearthstone, Smash Ultimate and Valorant for scrims to a lineup that already includes League of Legends, Overwatch and Rocket League. And all of it is free.

Likewise, the HSEL has enjoyed a steady rise in students and schools coming on board every year since its inception in 2013, but several initiatives over the past year have made it a scholastic esports superpower. The launch of Generation Esports as an umbrella organization along with the addition of the Middle School Esports League, which offers safe seasonal tournaments, teamwork and skill building, have expanded its reach globally and provided better outcomes for students who participate.

This spring and summer, HSEL offered many competitive games that high school students love, such as NBA 2K21, Smash, Overwatch, CS:GO and Rainbow Six Siege and the fall promises so much more. The HSEL has several cost options for schools who want to compete, including seasonal tournament passes and unlimited passes. It also features its own Gaming Concepts curriculum and a connection to the Varsity Esports Foundation that can assist Title I schools or those on the National School Lunch Program to participate.

“The convergence of HSEL’s competitive efforts with the proven academic resources and experience of NASEF gives us the collective opportunity to provide full wrap-around support for our students, and to forge a further pathway for them,” said Conner Alne, commissioner of HSEL.

Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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