Belzer Middle School Hosts Elite Gaming Live Club
Writer: Matt Keating
Photography Provided By Belzer Middle School
For the last two two years, Belzer Middle School has hosted a unique Elite Gaming Live Club (EGL) that encourages kids to stay after school and play competitive video games, work on coding and learn more about computer science and web design.
Andrew Harsha, principal of Belzer Middle School, says EGL gives opportunities to students who may not play an instrument in Belzer’s performing arts program, or who are not athletes, to get more involved in school activities.
“It allows them to have the same opportunities as student-athletes to socialize, practice and compete,” Harsha says. “Many of our students have made friends through this club, and it’s given them something outside of the school day to get excited about.”
Since the club started in the 2015-2016 school year, it has consistently had approximately 80 students who participate each semester.
“Some participate both in the fall and the spring,” Harsha says. “We currently have more than 70 students this spring.”
Students also compete for t-shirts, medals and cash prizes.
“It is one of our most popular after-school clubs,” Harsha adds. “The first year we started it, I had to turn some kids away and tell them to come back and participate in the spring. There is definitely a genuine interest in gaming that exists with middle school students.”
Harsha also loves the fact that it’s not just about playing video games but also involves learning more about coding and computer science.
“As an Indiana Department of Education Certified STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) school, that is important to me as well,” Harsha says. “The EGL staff has been amazing. They do all the work. We just organize the students and show up. If there are other schools in the area that have not yet connected with EGL, they should.”
Kerwin Rent, founder and CEO of EliteGamingLIVE, says Harsha has been a great supporter of the program and how it helps students.
“We have great scholarship opportunities,” Rent says. “Our students range from sixth grade to 12th grade. At EGL Championships, we award up to five scholarships for students that cover summer STEM/STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math) if they are not in 12th grade.”
At the last two EGL Championships, EGL partnered with Cathedral High School and awarded scholarships to their summer camp for Web Design. Besides those awards, they are open for recipients to choose their STEM camp.
“For instance, if a student wants to attend a specific camp, we fund that enrollment fee up to $250,” Rent says. “In the future, we want to have a broader range of educational partners to offer unique STEM summer experiences to students.”
If the recipient is in the 12th grade, Elite Gaming Live awards $250 to the bookstore account of the college-bound student.
“Our students at Belzer absolutely love EGL,” says Adelaide Collins, a Belzer teacher and EGL club sponsor. “We have students involved from all ability levels, ranging in students in life skills to special education.”
Collins loves that the club provides an opportunity for all students to share their love for video games and coding.
“We have new members show up to every meeting who are recruited by their friends,” Collins says. “We also have point rankings all over the school to show who is leading in points in the building. This might seem small, but the reaction of pride and joy that we see with our students is worth the hassle of running this large organization in our building.
“We have students who excel in video gaming and coding who might not excel in other areas of school success. EGL gives these students a connection to school and a connection to learning, which we know increases their school success.”