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Riot Games and SoLA Impact’s I CAN Foundation have opened a technology and gaming center in poverty-stricken South Los Angeles.
It’s an example of doing good in your own backyard, and it’s been made possible thanks to a social impact contribution of over $2 million from Riot Games, the Los-based creator of League of Legends and Valorant. Angeles.
The 14,000-square-foot technology and gaming center will provide free educational instruction to the South Los Angeles community, said Sherri François, chief impact officer for SoLa Impact and executive director of the SoLa I CAN Foundation, in an interview with GamesBeat.
It all started with a pitch the group made in 2018. Last year, they met with Riot Games founders Marc Merrill and Brandon Beck, and that led to the donation to the nonprofit group.
“We started having conversations around the amazing tech desert of South LA and talking to schools, parents, students and the community about the need to provide tech programming and education,” Francois said. “The need for technical training was so vast that we thought we had a business space, we know we can align with great partners. We should build a technology center. Frankly, it was as simple as that. »
Francois said the nonprofit started talking to potential partners, and the conversation with Riot Games immediately clicked when the company “responded in a nanosecond.”
“The fact that their social impact is so driven by what we stand on and what we believe in, that it was a natural marriage. And so we were really excited about the partnership when we were told that they were going to support us. Not only were they willing to help build this from a monetary standpoint, but they also wanted more meaning. They wanted to make sure they provided additional support in whatever capacity. The rioters were here last week working with the kids, being very active with the kids.
Jeff Burrell, head of social impact, said in an interview with GamesBeat that last year the company and nonprofit launched a pilot program for technology and entrepreneurial skills for children. The results were good and the team started sharing more ideas about the vision and how Riot could support it.
“At the end of last year, we announced our commitment of $2.25 million to build the centers. And so it’s crazy that they were able to completely build the entrepreneurship hub and the gaming lab and the esports arena,” Burrell said. “It was really cool to see not only the enthusiasm of the kids, but also the enthusiasm of the community and what that means to everyone in South Central Los Angeles.”
The goal is to improve the lives of residents and break the cycle of intergenerational poverty by providing opportunities for education and economic mobility. Yesterday, the group hosted the grand opening of the Technology and Esports Center at SoLa’s Beehive campus. The center aims to inspire and develop the next generation of black and brown game developers, esports athletes, technology professionals, leaders and entrepreneurs.
During the groundbreaking ceremony, representatives from Riot Games, SoLa Impact, and dignitaries representing South Los Angeles spoke about the partnership and the importance of this work. Attendees got a first look at the center and had the opportunity to speak with Riot and SoLa leaders as well as students and parents who have benefited from the program.
The highlight of the space is the new 3,000 square foot esports and gaming arena that features 40 high-end gaming PCs, a streaming studio, and a competitive 5v5 setup stage. During the event, students from SoLa’s Summer Tech Camp competed against each other in a Valorant game and even received advice from Merrill, co-founder of Riot and president of Games.
“They help maintain that in a way that will keep the doors open. We are so lucky to have the right partner,” said François.
Riot and SoLa will strive to provide students with the same access to the powerful benefits of technology as their counterparts in wealthier areas. The center seeks to reach more than 1,000 students each year, with a long-term goal of bridging the digital divide and inspiring future generations to pursue tech careers they may never have dreamed of before. T
At the center, students will be trained in coding, animation, graphic design, digital content creation, esports development, entrepreneurship, and practical and professional skills.
Partners such as the Otis College of Art and Design and South LA Robotics provide instructors or trainers.
The center has 40 gaming computers, as well as 30 iMacs and 15 MacBooks. The summer camp program can train 60 children each day from the community and can offer after-school programs during the school year.
Riot’s role is essential because children already know what he does. Kids can learn to be esports competitors. But Francois said the game is a good hook to attract children and help them realize the wider opportunities that technology can offer them.
“The game part is the chocolate on the broccoli,” she said. “Part of what we intend to do is to really spread the word about the broad careers in the game. You don’t have to just be professional gamers. We want them to know it can be a coder, they can be a character designer, they can create the music behind the games, a promoter. And so that’s our real intention.
The center welcomes children aged eight and over.
The group will seek other donations to ensure it can continue to operate and provide its programming for free. He’s also looking for volunteers, Francois said. The goal is to continue exposing children to people, places and experiences they don’t have in their daily lives.
“For any tech companies that want to partner up, maybe we can even bring some of our students to their sites, once we get through all this COVID-19. When they have the opportunity to visit a campus like Riot, minds are blown.
Riot’s Employee Resource Groups provide staff to help with special events as needed. Burrell sees the place as a kind of next-gen digital YMCA for kids.
“It’s crazy,” Burrell said. “After seeing COVID and the closures and all that, kids can come here together and find a sense of belonging and community. In this profession, it is difficult to feel close to work. But being here and seeing it all, you feel the energy and it’s really something special.
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