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Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan: Brand new Esports Lounge inspires and develops youth

By Leslie Green from Crain’s Content Studio

A multi-dimensional collaboration between the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan, The Children’s Foundation and the Detroit Red Wings endows youth with skills that can set them up for successful futures.

“The truth is the root causes of so many problems are poverty and the lack of economic opportunities,” said BGCSM President and CEO Shawn Wilson. “When you empower youth to climb the economic ladder, you can tackle all those issues simultaneously.”

BGCSM serves 21,000 youth and families in 11 locations.

In March 2022, the three partners unveiled their first Esports Lounge at BGCSM’s Lloyd H. Diehl Club on Detroit’s West Side. The Esports program will use an Industry Club model to pay youth to learn about careers in sports, technology entrepreneurship and eGaming, including esports and video, online and computer games.

“The Children’s Foundation is all about integrated partnerships,” Burns said. “This new partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan and the Detroit Red Wings is a wonderful example of our ability to do so much more together. This is now a shining example of our youth development focus area.”

Wilson expects the Industry Club to employ nearly 200 Detroit youth each year. BGCSM is the first Boys and Girls Club in the United States to use the model.

“Gaming, the fun element, is important when serving youth,” Wilson said. “We want them to be not just consumers but creators of the games too. Our youths are getting paid up to $13-an-hour to go deep into elements of the sports industry. They are being trained to be the owners.”

The Foundation and Red Wings invested $300,000 to reimagine an underutilized area of the club and build out the space, which includes a replicated Red Wings locker room. The grant money will also give BGCSM youth real-world experiences in building and monetizing brands and designing logos and merchandise. An Industry Club-developed esports league will launch this summer.

The program supports BGCSM’s mission to ensure that by the time kids reach age 18, they are ready to start careers and businesses and own a home. The endeavor also aligns with The Foundation’s efforts to help develop children’s sense of self-efficacy.

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