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High school students at Hickman High School competed against CPS Superintendent Dr. Peter Stiepleman and Abe Bahadori, president elect of the Columbia Public Schools Foundation, in an e-gaming competition. Thanks to a grant from the Columbia Public Schools Foundation (CPSF), the students are part of Hickman’s first E-Gaming Club.

“We have one of the best e-gaming rooms in the country, and are a nationwide leader in providing e-gaming opportunities for students,” said Tony Gragnani, principal of Hickman High School.

E-gaming club teams are growing across the nation. The National Federation of State High School Associations authorized e-sports as an activity for the 2019 school year. According to the NCAA, more than 475 schools offer club teams and about 50 offer e-sports scholarships. Locally, Columbia College offers e-sports scholarships, and the University of Missouri-Columbia also has an e-sports program.

“E-sports serves to engage our students in their school community,” Gragnani said. “It provides a space for us to work with our students to refine skill sets that many employers are wanting like problem-solving, creativity and teamwork. I am so grateful to the Foundation for giving our students something they are passionate about and can turn into a career.”

The $8,500 grant from the Foundation provided computer equipment necessary to establish the E-Gaming Club room at Hickman. Additional support came from Dell, which provided equipment and color-changing LED lights that turn purple for the Kewpies. CPS Athletic Director Bruce Whitesides also donated to the club room.

“The Columbia Public Schools Foundation is proud to provide this grant and continue our tradition of supporting innovation in our public schools,” said Cindy Mustard, CPSF board president. “This grant brings students together and helps them stay engaged and successful in school.”

Hickman currently has two clubs, with two teams for each game, League of Legends and Overwatch. Andrew Bechtel, learning specialist for math at Hickman, serves as the clubs’ sponsor and coach.

“It’s a blessing,” said Keyan Marshall, Hickman student and vice president of the Overwatch club. “Everyone wants to be here. It is so appreciated to have this opportunity.”

The Columbia Public Schools Foundation is a private foundation established by community volunteers dedicated to the enrichment of public education through community giving. The Foundation has funded projects in every school, allocating more than $1.2 million to enhance education in the Columbia Public Schools. CPSF was founded in 1996 and has supported teachers and students for more than 23 years.


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