How Version1, Cxmmunity are helping HBCU students interested in esports through scholarships

by Brian Bencomo

Version1 recently announced the organization was once again giving out scholarships, in partnership with Cxmmunity, to students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Just like in 2021, the esports organization is committing $25,000 -- $5,000 each to four students and $5,000 to the winners of a competition in the HBCU Esports League.

For Version1, the scholarship grew organically from their partnership with Cxmmunity, according to Version1 director of communications Cassie Batinich.

“This is all a Cxmmnity-led initiative,” Batinich told Nerd Street. “They’re making the connections with the young people, they’re looking for ways to create awareness for future generations, up-and-coming high schoolers and college students of the opportunity of esports and gaming as a career path in particular focusing on people of color and making sure that they have the access to the industry that everyone should have.”

Last year, the four students who received scholarships ended up going to Bennett University, Bowie State University, Johnson C. Smith University and Howard University.

In addition to Version1’s own marketing efforts, Batinich said that a big portion of the outreach to make students aware of the scholarship is done by Cxmmunity’s relationships with guidance counselors and esports coaches at HBCUs. That’s how Kyndall Ragins, one of the four scholarship recipients in 2021 became aware of the scholarship.

Ragins, who is a student at Johnson C. Smith University and the only woman on the school’s esports teams, was told about the scholarship by a school advisor.

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At first, Ragins was hesitant to apply because she thought she was new to esports and wouldn’t get the scholarship. Ultimately, she made a last-minute decision to apply that paid off.

“I completely didn’t expect to win because I was like there are probably so many other kids who are so impressive when it comes to their esports backgrounds and stuff because I didn’t really get into competitive gaming until I got to college,” she said.

Ragins wants to encourage other students who might be hesitant like she was to apply.

“For the people who are applying to the scholarship, don’t think that other people, that they have a better chance than you,” she said. “Because at the end of the day everyone has the same chance. You’re just as impressive as everyone else, you just have to show them.”

Ragins thinks it’s critical that scholarships like this one are available to students from the Black community and other minority students.

“I think it is very important for these scholarships to be available because I feel like the gaming and esports industry isn’t really, I guess, a lot of people especially my community growing up, it wasn’t something that everyone knew was like an actual way to get a career,” she said.

Ragins, who plays Call of Duty, Apex Legends and Overwatch, doesn’t have aspirations to go pro in esports, but she’s studying political science and is hoping to go to law school. She’s thinking about pursuing a legal career in the gaming industry, whether that’s in game patenting or litigation.

This year, four more students will get a chance to receive the same scholarship Ragins and three others received. Unlike last year, the scholarship is open to any undergraduate student attending an HBCU rather than just first- and second-year students.

The application process is still essentially the same, but the application period is starting earlier. Batinich said Version1 and Cxmmunity wanted to make sure students started to become aware of the scholarship in the early summer as students are graduating from high school and thinking about their plans for the fall.

“The application is very straight forward,” Batinich said. “It requires students to submit, whether it’s a written essay or a piece of artwork that they’ve done that will demonstrate their passion and skill set in graphic design or video production or editing or what have you, just to illustrate for them why they’re passionate about working in gaming.”

Students can apply for the scholarship now at version1.gg/cxmmunity, and the application is open through Sept. 30.

Lead photo credit: Cxmmunity

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