High School Gaming Club Sparks Friendships While Fighting Heart Disease
Their advisor says that the students in the gaming club at John I. Leonard High School are shy, highly competitive, and stick to themselves. They also have a heart for helping others.
That’s why the students were quick to jump at the chance to provide support, when the American Heart Association approached them with an opportunity to focus on their health while also helping others.
Revive is a platform to help gamers learn to take care of their mental health and physical well-being. The pilot high school eSports program through the American Heart Association incorporates lessons on the importance of sleep, proper nutrition, taking stretch breaks, and physical activity, as well as how to integrate it into their club activities and life. While the students learn these skills, they also have the opportunity to raise money for the Association, win prizes, and earn community service hours.
As they compete in a fundraising platform, students can have friends and family make donations to stream the games and watch their performance, raising money for the cause at the same time and even earning college scholarships. The program was immediately well-received by the already eager gaming club members.
Business Academy Instructor and club sponsor, John Snyder is the first to admit that he knows nothing about gaming. After retiring from the business world and coaching sports, he decided to explore a second career teaching and coaching in Palm Beach County. Although there were no immediate openings for coaching sports, the school had a great need to bring together the students who kept to themselves but shared a love of gaming.
“My assistant principal asked if I’d like to get the kids together and head a new club,” Snyder said. “I told her I know nothing about gaming, but I know how to bring people together and I will make it happen.”
Word quickly spread around campus about plans to form a gaming club. Snyder expected 15 students at their first meeting, but more than 40 showed up. From there, the club meetings grew to 80 students, then 125 students, and in four short months, it was up to nearly 150 members.
“We’re bigger than the football team and the band,” Snyder said.
The students, both boys and girls, would meet regularly to play and compete against each other in Super Smash Bros., Rainbow Six Siege, and Overwatch. Recognizing that girls were also interested in being what Snyder calls Student Athletes, he immediately called for the girls to have leadership roles in the club and sit on the Board. The students also set a minimum grade point average to be able to participate in the club.
While COVID-19 has put the in-person meetings on hold, the Revive program still allows the students to do what they love. “The students told the Heart Association, ‘you want to raise money, we just want to play.’ So it’s a win-win for everyone,” Snyder said.
Aside from raising money and awareness for an important cause, the club hopes to also raise about $4,800 to purchase six gaming systems. That way, when the students return to campus, they will have the equipment they need to continue the group’s success.
“The real prize has been seeing the friendships between these students skyrocket outside of school,” Snyder said. “It’s the neatest thing to see.”
If you'd like to sponsor the team's effort to raise money for the American Heart Association, click here.