Ranking up: ASU Prep South Phoenix’s eSports team takes on national competition

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At ASU Prep South Phoenix, a groundbreaking approach to sports is taking the field—or rather, the screen. Under the guidance of Coach Jose Rosario, an English Language Arts teacher with a passion for gaming, the school’s eSports team, having first conquered the state tournament, advanced to the national playoffs, where they competed against schools from across the country and Canada in the action-packed video game Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

In their inaugural year, the two ASU Prep South Phoenix eSports teams showcased their skills and strategic prowess during a remarkable run. The Sea Monsters secured a commendable 3rd place out of 25 teams in the state tournament, while the Daredevils captured 15th. The momentum did not stop at the state level, as the Sea Monsters continued their competitive streak into the national tournament, achieving an impressive ranking of 25th out of 133 participating teams, while the Daredevils placed 52nd.

Beyond the game: The benefits of eSports

What is eSports? It’s where video gaming meets competitive sports and it has become increasingly popular in the educational sphere. Platforms like PLAYvs offer schools the tools to build, manage, and compete with eSports teams across the country, tracking stats and scheduling video game matches with ease. It’s within this digital coliseum that ASU Prep South Phoenix’s team has thrived, backed by the Canyon Athletic Association (CAA), which champions the legitimacy of eSports.

CAA highlights several benefits of eSports, from fostering social skills and strategic thinking to encouraging students to manage both triumphs and defeats. “They learn to lose with grace and to be humble when they win. To coach one another, help others and learn from them,” says Coach Rosario.

Furthermore, involvement in eSports can lead to improved attendance, academic performance, and increased interest in STEM careers. This aligns with broader trends showing that students engaged in extracurricular activities often excel in various aspects of their academic and personal lives.

Leadership and learning through eSports

Rosario’s team, comprising mostly middle schoolers, shows immense potential. They’re formidable opponents, despite being some of the youngest competitors in the arena. Coach Rosario describes the team as “a force to be reckoned with…with so much potential.”

One young standout is Francisco de la Cruz, a 7th grader who embodies the spirit of the team, blending competition with camaraderie. “I like having fun with friends and peers, helping others out, learning new techniques,” he shares, capturing the essence of what makes eSports at ASU Prep South Phoenix so special.

His involvement in the team has been transformative, not just in honing his gaming skills but also in personal growth. “It’s making me better because I’ve made more friends and I’m not so shy anymore,” Francisco reflects on how the team has contributed to his confidence and social circle, opening him up to new friendships and experiences.

Coach Rosario praises Francisco’s growth. “I’ve seen him blossom. When our team is facing a loss or a challenge, Francisco tries to look at the positive side of things. He’s a role model for our kids,” says Rosario. “He’s had a great impact not only on the students on our team but also some of the other kids on campus. That’s a beautiful thing.”

These positive effects extend to the whole team’s culture. At the “Game On! ASU Prep community event,” the team took it to another level by hosting a gaming booth. There, they showcased their skills, shared their passion, and motivated the next wave of young gamers.

The spirit of competition continues, with plans to face off in a tournament against a school in Tucson and more game play over the summer. The virtual nature of eSports allows for continuous off-season play, offering endless opportunities for growth and camaraderie.

Looking ahead

ASU Prep South Phoenix’s eSports team exemplifies how traditional notions of sports and education are evolving. Through strategic gameplay, teamwork, and the guiding principles imparted by Coach Rosario, these young gamers are not only competing; they’re preparing for life’s myriad challenges. The teams’ success and the burgeoning interest in eSports hint at a future where digital arenas are as celebrated as physical ones, proving that sportsmanship and competition know no bounds in the digital age.

Discover more about how ASU Preparatory Academy is redefining the educational landscape through innovative programs like eSports. Join us for an upcoming Information Session to learn more about the wide range of educational and extracurricular opportunities we offer.

Neighbors, nurturing community bonds: ASU Prep South Phoenix and The Kroc Center

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This school year, ASU Prep South Phoenix and The Salvation Army Kroc Center Phoenix have become more than just neighbors. Thanks to a special partnership, every ASU Prep South Phoenix 7–12 student and all K–12 staff members will now enjoy gold membership access at the Kroc Center.

Intermediate and High School Principal Patrick Gibbs credits the support of ASU Prep’s senior leadership Amy McGrath and Betsy Fowler, along with the Kroc Center’s community-driven generosity for making this possible. The Kroc Center already offers a discount for nonprofit partnerships but also extended an additional neighborly discount, making it possible for ASU Prep to purchase memberships for staff and students.

“We wanted to make sure that it was 100% accessible to all students,” says Gibbs. The partnership doesn’t stop at students and staff—50 families have also been offered a discounted family membership that allows for up to 6 members. This way, parents/guardians and siblings can benefit too.

A shared vision

This partnership between ASU Prep South Phoenix and The Kroc Center is a testament to the strength of community collaboration. It’s about more than just sharing resources—it’s about shared values, shared goals, and a shared commitment to uplifting individuals and families.

As Principal Gibbs notes, “The Kroc Center is doing good work and we’re doing good work. It just makes sense for organizations that have that same goal of uplifting people and creating safe community spaces to work together.”

Captain Caroline Rowe, Corps Officer and Administrator at the Kroc Center, agrees, “ASU services the same individuals we seek to serve, so it is such a pleasure to have these children and families come and use The Salvation Army Phoenix Kroc Center.”

ASU Prep South Phoenix is more than a school—it’s a close-knit community. Many of the students are on the path to becoming first-generation college students. Their families send them to ASU Prep South Phoenix for its challenging college and career preparatory programs that include a dependable support network. Sometimes that support comes from family members who are also at the school. Whether it’s classmates who are cousins or a staff member who holds the title of godfather, many individuals at ASU Prep South Phoenix share connections and look after each other.

And now this network of support extends to the neighboring Kroc Center. The Kroc Center, since its opening in May 2012, has served more than a million people with its programs in arts, education, recreation, wellness, and spiritual guidance. It was developed thanks to a $90 million grant from a bequest to The Salvation Army by the late Mrs. Joan Kroc, widow of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc. Captain Rowe says, “We believe this facility is here as a beacon of light and a safe place for the children and families in this community.” She’s happy to see all the new faces making use of the membership opportunity and all it has to offer.

The benefits

The Kroc Center is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., providing an accessible and safe space for students to use exercise equipment or study areas, before or after school. This is especially beneficial for students navigating parents’ work schedules that don’t align with school drop-off and pick-up times. Students enjoy the athletic opportunities, like basketball, volleyball, and the state-of-the-art Aquatic Center.

Students who are weightlifting might spot the school’s security guard or their math or English teacher. There might even be some students attempting to out-bench one of their teachers. Principal Gibbs says some teachers walk the indoor track at lunch, saying, “That’s a super cool bonus to help with teacher wellness and balance. It’s also really fun for the kids to see the teachers living a healthy lifestyle.”

Because of the close proximity of the Center, within walking distance, ASU Prep South Phoenix has even been using the facilities for regular P.E. classes. The school also takes advantage of the gaming lounge to host their weekly eSports club, a competitive electronic sports team.

Founder Joan Kroc’s vision for the Center was “A place where you will feel welcomed and supported no matter what your physical, educational, or social goals, and every person in our community is a critical component.” This collaboration recognizes and uplifts the staff and students of ASU Prep South Phoenix as the critical components they are—honored members of our community.

Learn more

To learn more about ASU Prep South Phoenix, visit asuprep.asu.edu. For more information about The Phoenix Kroc Center, visit krocphoenix.org.

Summer Tips: Get Kids Out of the House

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Learning should be – and can be – fun. Summer is the perfect time to engage young learners in meaningful opportunities to be curious, to explore, and to discover new interests. Check out this list of fun yet educational (and often free) activities to get your kids out of the house and learning this summer.

Try Geocaching: A combination of technology and active outdoor time, “The world’s largest treasure hunt” involves searching for hidden items in a specific geographical area using GPS coordinates on your smart device. Create a free account on www.geocaching.com and download the app. Choose a cache to find based on area and level of difficulty and head out for adventure.

Go on a Scavenger Hunt: Apps like Monkey Spot or Goosechase include scavenger hunts kids can do outdoors or in everyday places like the grocery store, finding assigned objects. You can also search online for free printable scavenger hunts by topic — seasonal, outdoor or color/alphabet-themed. 

Explore Outdoors: Discover history and culture and connect with nature at a state or national park. The National Park Service offers a Junior Ranger program with interactive activities that give kids a chance to earn a badge and certificate. Bonus: Fourth graders can visit America’s National Parks for free with an Every Kid Outdoors pass. 

Roam a Local Garden: Let kids explore exhibits, feed fish, and identify types of flowers. The Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix offers free admission 5:00-7:30 p.m. on the first Friday of every month, and The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix hosts Community Day with free admission on the second Tuesday of the month. Search online to find more beautiful gardens and special deals to explore. 

Tour a Museum or Science Center: Check online for nearby museums of art or history as well as science centers for hours, special activities, and free admission opportunities. Some options near our ASU Prep campuses include Heard Museum, Phoenix Art Museum, Children’s Museum of Phoenix, and Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. 

Through Museums for All, families presenting their SNAP EBT card can gain free or reduced admission to participating venues, and some banks offer their cardholders free or discounted museum passes. Check out an Act One Culture Pass from a public library to gain free access to Arizona’s arts and cultural treasures. 

Visit a Zoo or Aquarium. Check out animal encounters, tour habitats, learn about endangered species, get involved in conservation efforts, and take advantage of play areas.

Try Something New: Research local kid-oriented classes and workshops like pottery, painting, cooking, bird-watching, coding, or photography. Consider looking into Lowe’s or Home Depot’s building workshops or events held at nearby craft stores. Perhaps a new physical activity like gymnastics, martial arts, indoor rock climbing, dance, or ninja warrior training would be a good fit.

Stop in the Local Library: Local public libraries don’t only offer books for free check-out, but also host story time and hands-on activities like crafts, as well as interactive demonstrations like a magic show or science experiment.

Can’t Get Out of the House? Take your kids on a virtual field trip from the comfort of home to places like the Louvre in France or the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Tune in to one of the many educational programs offered on YouTube or keep kids busy with an at-home scavenger hunt. 

No matter where this summer takes you and your family, try to include fun learning opportunities for the kids. When planning outdoor activities, be sure to consider the weather. Wear sun protection, hydrate, and have fun!