Trumbull hopes ACE Foundation grant helps esports grow in town

A slide from a presentation on esports during a Sept. 13, 2022 meeting of the Trumbull Board of Education.

A slide from a presentation on esports during a Sept. 13, 2022 meeting of the Trumbull Board of Education.


TRUMBULL — Some people might view video games and online gaming as a pleasant diversion, or worse, a waste of time. But for Christine El Eris's son, the activity has been life-changing.

"I know digital games and gaming can be controversial, but as a parent of a son who has dyslexia and who has experienced a lot of breakthroughs through using gaming as well as through-reading graphic novels, these things have really helped him harness his ability to decipher words and read," El Eris said.

She spoke during the public comment portion of Tuesday night's Board of Education meeting, at which the board eventually voted to accept a $17,000 donation from the Trumbull Academic Challenge for Excellence (ACE) Foundation to help purchase new computers for the school district's growing esports program.

Esports, short for electronic sports, is a form of competitive gaming. It focuses on teamwork, communication, strategic thinking and leadership. 

"When you think about esports, it’s not really about children playing video games,"  said Bryan Rickert, principal at Hillcrest Middle School. "It is the only competitive sport that has a truly level playing field."

During a presentation to the board before its vote, he and others discussed the current state of esports in Trumbull and where they see the program heading. They also pointed out that many other schools in the state have esports programs, including Fairfield Ludlowe High School, Greenwich High School, Shelton High School and St. Joseph's High School in Trumbull.

Right now, there are esports clubs at Madison and Hillcrest Middle Schools with about 80 students participating. The two clubs have four Nintendo Switch gaming devices between them. The hope is to eventually expand the program to the high school, and that anywhere from 150 to 200 students would be involved.

The ACE Foundation grant was seen as just one step forward for the program, and those involved with the schools' esports program said it would eventually be largely funded through pay-to-play fees, similar to other sports.

"Esports is growing; it’s vibrant and I’m very excited that Trumbull has the opportunity to be part of this," said Chris Eide, instructional technology specialist at Trumbull High School.

 Also present at the meeting was Kate Hampford Donahue​, who is on the ACE board of directors. She said ACE donated the money for the esports program because they view the effort as consistent with ACE's mission. ACE is a charitable organization that supports competitive academic teams and civic service clubs through financial grants.

"Our support (for esports) ensures that Trumbull students will gain a true competitive advantage now, not later," Donahue said.

After the presentation, the board voted unanimously to accept the $17,000 donation.