Letter of March 7th, 2022 by Edison "EZ" Zhong, Senior at Susan Wagner HS
There’s a new league in the city, and it’s not in your local bowling alley. It's called EZ Esports, New York City’s First-Ever High School Esports League (https://www.ezesports.org). We’re also the first student-led esports league in the world, founded in November 2021, with hundreds of high school students participating across the Big Apple!
It's a great pleasure to meet you as one of the NYCDOE Superintendents! Before I go any further, I should probably introduce myself. My name is Edison Zhong, and I’m a senior student at Susan E. Wagner High School and previously attended Midwood High School. I’ve always enjoyed being part of various sports teams and have even won awards in the PSAL. However, my interests extend beyond sports; I participate in the Wagner Debate Team and Wagner’s Student Government. I’ve always loved the atmosphere of teamwork and competition in these activities, and they helped me build foundational characteristics that define me.
As an engaged and active student in school-related activities and avid videogamer, I often wondered how much esports, competitive matches organized through multiplayer video games, could positively impact the schooling experience of students in the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE). When I researched for esports leagues for my school to participate in, I was disappointed that the only result was HSEL, a for-profit esports company charging thousands just for students to participate in esports. So alongside a group of students, we founded a league, EZ Esports, with the vision to fill a gap in the market for a financially accessible esports league that fosters connection and competition between high schoolers across NYC. Our org is integrated with fourteen of New York City’s most prestigious high schools led by a student committee, and we are asking for support and recognition of large bureaucracies and organizations. We want to be showcased and officially recognized as a competitive league within the NYCDOE so that we can do more for the schooling experience of students in New York City.
Home to over 1.1 million students, the NYCDOE is the most extensive school system in the United States. Unfortunately, there have been no initiatives to create an esports league. This is a shame. Globally, esports is an expanding community of over 2.8 billion video gamers while generating $1.1 billion USD in the 2021 economy. It’s clear that esports has a vast audience in today’s generation, especially with the growing use of technology.
EZ Esports align our goals to the commitment of Equity and Excellence in NYC schools. We’ve allowed students to experience the same vibrant competition that traditional sports teams offer in a more modern and accessible manner. Currently, we’re integrated with fourteen of New York City’s most prestigious high schools and have seen tremendous success.
Our officiated esports matches are aligned between school teams. We aim to foster character development, socialization, sportsmanship, and competition for our students. Not only does EZ Esports easily strengthen school communities by providing an opportunity to be part of your school’s esports teams, but it provides a real opportunity for students to attain experience in areas that are relevant to the real world.
“Through EZ Esports, by being in proximity to other passionate, like-minded students, I have been able to uniquely harness and build the professionality aspect of myself, something which is critical in the coming years. When kids are introduced to diverse and uncomfortable situations, such as the loss of a game, they build trust in their team as well as the ability to accept defeat and rise up once again,” explains Alexander Shannon, Brooklyn Technical High School ’24. “I appreciate the community that EZ Esports has built and how much fun players are having with friendly rivalries and playing with other kids their age.”
EZ Esports enable students to discover and explore additional paths of interest, allowing students at a younger age to discover new talents. For instance, our student production team promotes growth in public speaking by allowing students to shoutcast festive live-streamed matches that average over 100 live concurrent viewers on Twitch, a broadcasting site.
“Shoutcasting for EZ Esports has become meaningful to me. It made me skillful at improvising because of how fast-paced matches are and not knowing what’s going to happen next,” says Sahil Shafakat, Bronx High School of Science ’24. “Casting to an audience that is much bigger than I’m used to is its own level of being under pressure!”
Students can hone leadership skills when developing strategies to lead their teams to victory in respective matches. We also provide an opportunity to students to develop and improve their graphic design skills through the management of our social media accounts such as Instagram. (Under construction: Twitter and Youtube)
Furthermore, our strong social media presence could be used for increasing awareness about NYCDOE existing programs to others, and even sparking many new friendships! “EZ Esports has become a gateway for me to meet students from other schools,” says Justin Medina, Susan E Wagner High School ’22, a starter for Wagner’s League of Legends team.
“I really like the community,” adds Kishi Wijaya, Stuyvesant High School ’25. “If it weren’t for EZ Esports, I would probably still hang out with the same friends from my old school. But I met lots of cool people and have a larger network of connections now.”
Esports can effectively engage students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) subjects. In this regard, video games are twofold. First, gaming is highly engaging, so teachers and parents can harness student attention and easily steer it towards math and science learning. Second, the development of video games necessitates a considerable amount of STEM knowledge, making them a logical hook for teaching code and other computer skills.
“The entire operation of EZ esports is like a small-time corporation. It is astounding to see high school students collaborating and fully leveraging the skills of all members of their team to create such an impressive project outside of their schoolwork,” says Willie Ho, a teacher at Montauk Junior High School.
Our organization currently receives no funding or outside help; our lack of resources hinders our potential. We want official status from the NYCDOE. Ivan Chen, Stuyvesant High School ’22, advised that EZ Esports “can use funding to increase production quality, grow our brand, and will eventually become self-sufficient through revenue. We can reach more students this way.”
EZ Esports ultimately wants to see students succeed. With more resources, we can attract the “more than 170 U.S. colleges [that] have varsity esports programs and are offering around $16 million per year in scholarships” (Rise Of Esports Is Good For Schools by Forbes). Additionally, we’ve been trying to offer prizes for winning our competitions, which have been funded by volunteering students who wish to contribute to EZ Esports. It’s tough for high school students to properly organize this league with no resources, as we now have other high schools on our waitlist that can’t wait to play in the next school year. With a stronger foundation, the committee and I hope to expand to more schools and provide for more students in NYC.
To achieve our goal of establishing a competitive and official esports community, the stigmatization of gaming must be changed. The gaming community is vast, and it encourages growth and collaboration. “Most games constantly assess the players’ analysis and decision-making skills, as wins are rewarded through working with your peers,” says Kamilla Egamova, John Dewey High School ’23. “I’ve grown closer with my classmates and my school’s community.” Video games no longer exist as simply a casual hobby. It has become an enterprise, business, and the education sphere needs to start acknowledging the popularity of the activity the same way the rest of the world currently does.
“It’s exciting to go against the best of the best. I remember coming-back from 0-11 against the undefeated Stuyvesant,” said Gurshaan Singh, Bayside High School ’25. “Thankfully, our team channeled their quick inner decision-making, and strategy development, all under this high-pressure team-based environment. We pulled an ‘EZ Esports Clutch’ and ended Stuyvesant’s undefeated record, going 14-12 from the 0-11 start.”
The school standings for Valorant, League of Legends, and Teamfight Tactics are here. In the next school year, the committee intends to expand the number of game genres and organize more matches to be more inclusive to the students we serve.
Most recently, in February 2022, an article titled Game On! written by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) featured high school esports. Peter Cozeolino, a teacher at William E. Grady High School in Brooklyn, said to UFT, “finding competition isn’t easy; there is no formal New York City public school league for esports. The [Grady] Falcons compete in tournaments against online teams from across the country or set up scrimmages” (Game On! by UFT). In November 2021, our organization reached out to Cozeolino to extend our competition to his school and students. However, he stopped communicating with us. Sadly, until we attain support from larger companies or the NYCDOE, it will be difficult for us to truly be acknowledged for our continuous efforts.
The same article mentions that William E. Grady High School received a $150,000 gaming room for their school alone. Meanwhile, EZ Esports, New York City’s Public High School Esports League, a student-led organization that provides for fourteen high schools, receives ZERO recognition or funds. William E. Grady High School “got a big boost in November 2021 when the ribbon was cut on Grady’s esports gaming room, a $150,000 project engineered by Assistant Principal Todd Gerber. The state-of-the-art room has 21 high-end gaming PCs, two Xbox One Series S systems and two Nintendo Switch consoles, plus gaming chairs and couches” (Game On! by UFT). It is great that the students at Grady can now have a better esports experience. EZ Esports has hopes to attain some support as well, so that we can continue serving not just one, but many schools throughout NYC.
EZ Esports is in dire need of a helping hand. In four months, we have established so much, and as a dedicated student-led organization, we will continue to do so much in the upcoming years. The EZ Esports committee and I are asking for the support and recognition of large bureaucracies and organizations so we can do more for the schooling experience of students in New York City. We also hope to be officially recognized within the NYCDOE as a league similar to PSAL, and be showcased by the media. Official recognition would allow more schools to collaborate with us, positively impacting more students.
The committee and I encourage you to assist us in this journey of making EZ Esports, New York City’s Public High School Esports League, something feasible for all high school students. If you could give us a chance, the EZ Esports committee and I would love to share more info on our progress and present what we hope to achieve by the end of this school year and beyond! Please get in touch with me by responding to this email or [redacted] / firstname.lastname@example.org, or the committee at email@example.com.
I greatly appreciate you for taking the time to read my email, and I look forward to your response!
Susan E. Wagner HS ’22
Founder of EZ Esports