Some students are drawn to sports, others to music, and still others connect through video games.
A new program starting in San Diego County will offer those students an opportunity to learn about collaboration, strategy, and leadership by forming Esports teams to compete with other schools through online video games.
"It's a great opportunity to try something new," said Alex, a 16-year-old at Monarch School in San Diego, where a team started in January. "I learn how to play as a team and communicate."
Local school districts can join the competition for the upcoming school year by participating in a virtual meeting at 2:30 p.m. April 8. The North American Scholastic Esports Federation has curriculum and other learning resources that teachers can use to augment student's participation in the leagues.
"It's really tapping into a group of students who might not have had any other extracurricular activity connecting them to their school," said Dr. Alicia Gallegos Butters, director of educational technology for the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE). "It's a different avenue to get them involved at school."
The competitions are popular in Orange County and are just starting to take root in San Diego County with a pilot in four of SDCOE's Juvenile Court and Community Schools. SDCOE is working with districts to expand the league this fall.
At Monarch School, a team of six students practice every day and compete once a week. They meet to train on the game and discuss strategy before each match, similar to traditional sports. They also need to meet the same academic and disciplinary requirements as students who participate in other sports.
The experience has brought the students together as a team. They're even getting their own jerseys.
"It's all about team work," said Mark Rounds, a teacher at Monarch School. "There were things that I saw from some of the students that I hadn't seen before."