The fledgling esports program at Northwest Middle School is taking a major step forward with the creation of a room filled with new gaming equipment, courtesy of a partnership led by pro football player Kenny Moore Jr. and his One Love Foundation.
On Monday, Feb. 27, Moore, an all-pro cornerback for the Indianapolis Colts, joined a contingent from Republic Airways and Herman Miller Gaming to surprise students with their new esports room.
Republic Airways provided a $5,000 grant to One Love to help purchase the computer equipment, while Herman Miller Gaming provided performance desks and chairs.
The event began with students in the club gathered in the temporarily set up esports room at the school. Members from Butler University Esports spoke their counterparts at Northwest about the collegiate program and how esports can lead to a career beyond gaming.
“We feel that this esports room will keep the kids around the school and get them interested in careers related to gaming,” Moore said. “These kids will take such skills as programming, coding, and updating into other careers during their lives.”
The idea for the gift stemmed from a 2022 visit Moore made to the school as part of a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Teachers’ Treasures.
During that event, Northwest Principal Phil Shults proposed the creation of an esports club his teachers had been envisioning as a way for the students to have a fun and safe activity to participate in after school.
The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) first recognized esports as an official sport in 2018. Since then, more than 8,600 high schools and middle schools have created video gaming teams.
This explosive growth is driven by student interest — about 90 percent of teens play video games — and is matched by growth in esports scholarships and careers. Many teens already make money through donations, subscriptions and ad revenue by streaming their play on online platforms like Twitch.
Shults believes that esports is a natural fit at the middle school.
“Our club will provide more opportunities for students to learn, grown and work together,” he said. “Right now, we have about 40 students interested in the program, but when word gets out, I expect a long line of youngsters to be regular participants.”