Students who participate in the Bunsold After School Enrichment (BASE) program meet after classes for tutoring, homework help and extracurricular activities. BASE is planning to launch an Esports League this spring, in which students will face off against other middle school teams in online gaming competitions. (Photo submitted)
The Bunsold After School Enrichment Program is working to help prepare its students for their future, without losing their interest.
The BASE program is planning to launch an Esports League, which revolves around competitive online gaming, this spring.
“I know a lot of students and every single one of them spends a lot of time gaming,” said Director of School Aged Child Care Programs Kelly Walker, adding “We want to meet them at their level.”
The BASE program is funded by the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant that aims to give students a safe space after school, while improving grades and college readiness, said BASE Coordinator Brandy Spurgeon.
While the program emphasizes tutoring and homework help, Spurgeon said it also offers extracurriculars to keep students engaged so the seventh- and eighth graders will want to continue staying after school.
BASE hosts a number of clubs that rotate throughout the years to cater to current students’ interests.
The program is currently hosting the guitar club, which is instructed by a Bunsold Middle School teacher, Spurgeon said.
In the past, she said cooking, podcast, art and even yoga clubs have been popular among students.
BASE also has a 3D printer and engraver, which students may use to develop technical skills and create projects. Spurgeon said BASE students will soon begin working on Christmas ornaments.
As student interests evolve, Spurgeon said BASE works to keep up.
Spurgeon and Walker said BASE staff collaborated to propose the Esports League this year, which students have been “all about.”
Spurgeon said there are tangible benefits from online gaming in a safe, adult-supervised environment.
She noted that a number of colleges have launched varsity Esports Leagues and some even offer scholarships for team members.
Beyond that, she said online gaming can foster students’ social-emotional health and build leadership. Walker added that the organized competitions enable children to think critically, problem solve and multi-task, all abilities she described as “real-life job skills.”
While some parents or guardians may have concerns about online gaming, Walker said the Esports League will be “much different (than) when a student is at home alone.”
She said students will only play non-violent games that are age-appropriate, such as Minecraft, MarioKart and Madden NFL and NBA 2K games.
Additionally, Spurgeon said actually being in a room with other teammates builds “a feeling of community” rather than isolation.
“They’re not feeling alone,” she said.
Once the league is established, Walker said teams of students will compete in online competitions against teams from other middle schools.
The competitions are organized by the Middle School Esports League and may feature teams from schools throughout the country.
Although only the Bunsold Middle School students will be in the same room together, Spurgeon said the online gaming will allow them to build connections with and learn from other students their age.
“It’s kind of like a new pen pal,” she said.
To kickstart the Esports League, BASE is hosting a raffle for a PlayStation 5 bundle which includes the game console, two controllers, a Razer Kraken headset, a one-year PlayStation Plus subscription and a $40 GameStop gift card.
Those interested in purchasing a ticket may do so at https://marysville.hometownticketing.com/embed/event/426. Online ticket sales end at 11:59 p.m. Nov. 30.
The raffle drawing will be held in the lobby of the Marysville branch of Richwood Bank at 11 a.m. Dec. 4, though ticket holders do not need to be present to win.
Walker said the raffle is an example of how crucial local partnerships are to the BASE program.
Spurgeon agreed that BASE is most effective when it is tied to the local community.
“The more the community knows about it… the more we can provide resources (to students and families,” she said.
The BASE program currently serves 13 students, who meet after school Mondays-Thursdays until 6 p.m. Though the program generally has open enrollment throughout the year, Spurgeon said there is currently a waitlist due to short staffing.
Walker said BASE is in need of more program coordinators, which would allow the program to be expanded to its capacity of 50 students. She also encouraged community members who are interested to volunteer.