Esports, internships, classes, college credits focus for WK&T

JAMES TURNER/The Mayfield Messenger

All of Graves County High School's esports teams are shown stress testing the technology in the designated esports room inside one of WK&T's facilities, located at the former Mid-Continent University campus off U.S. 45 North.

High school esports teams have been given access to a special room designated for practicing competitive gaming at a technology park.

WK&T has set up a room in one of its north Graves County Technology Park facilities for students on high school esports teams that are playing on site.

Karen Jackson-Furman, chief operating officer for the telecommunications company, said WK&T has volunteered the use of its esports room to the teams at Graves County High School.

"We installed five top-of-the-line systems. It's awesome," she said. "Gaming chairs, gaming desks, we blacked out the room with paint and shades, put in some cool mood lighting, they've all got their top-of-the-line headsets, the PCs light up, and the keyboards light up. You know, it's really part of a gamer's dream."

Jackson-Furman said because Graves County High School is the only school with students enrolled in their intern program, the students on the Eagles' esports team do not have to be part of that program and can practice there at the coach's discretion. However, in the future, she said, the room will be for those that are in the internship program and from other schools, as well.

"We don't want kids in our internship program to miss out if they want to participate on their schools' esports teams," she said. "This practice room allows for the kids that are in the program to practice their craft on site and they don't miss out."

Both esports and internships are part of a three-pronged program that WK&T has partnered with the Four Rivers Foundation on to start. The third prong is classes, and earning college credits.

Jackson-Furman said they are currently working with Murray State University to offer online classes with the "… ultimate goal of having a professor on site to teach classes at some point in the future." The online class part, she said, isn't ready quite yet, but if it doesn't come together this semester it should definitely be in place by the fall.

The internship, she continued, is a paid internship working at their call center making outbound calls.

"We just hope that the program grows," she continued. "We hope that more schools we're working with start esports teams. We hope that the internship side of it grows. We have a vision to have classes taught here at our tech park for the kids, and we've got a lot of hopes for the initiative."

Garret Matheny, Isaac Lockwood and Avery Bradley make up the Rocket League team at Graves County High School that took third place last year in the state KHSAA tournament. They believe that esports as a whole will continue to grow and flourish in the future.

"I think that esports, later down the line, will be as big as any other sport," Matheny said.

Graves County High School also has esports teams for League of Legends and Smite games.