Professional Development
Career development / Education / Gaming

The ESA Foundation awarded scholarships to these 31 student creators

The D.C.-based Entertainment Software Assocation's foundation awarded scholarships to 31 students from 19 institutions, with a focus on women, BIPOC and LBGTQ+ students looking to break into the video game industry.

Scholars gather at an ESA partner event in 2018. (Courtesy photo)
The headline was updated to reflect that the ESA Foundation awarded the scholarships. (7/7/21, 11:16 a.m.)

The Mount Vernon Square-based foundation of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) recently announced the recipients of its 2021-2022 scholarship program, which awarded funds to women, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students from around the country who are preparing to enter the gaming industry.

The scholarship program, which was created in 2007, was developed to help underrepresented students break into the gaming industry. The ESA offered two types of scholarship this year: one for those studying video game arts and sciences, and another for game development and content creation that serves LGBTQ+ communities, in partnership with Gay Gaming Professionals.

Executive Director Anastasia Staten said that while there was no specific formula for scholar selection, ESA wanted to see students’ dedication to the industry.

“We’re really looking for well-rounded students that are displaying the passion, the interest and making an effort to be self-taught or finding some other way to explore what their passion is,” Staten told 

The 31 scholars were selected from 19 institutions, and 16 are returning recipients. Of the scholarships, 24 were awarded for arts and sciences studies, four for game development while serving LGBTQ+ communities and three were a combination of both. This year also marked the first content creator recipient, a University of Southern California student with 11,500 followers on streaming service Twitch.

While the program was developed with the intention of facilitating a more diverse talent pipeline in the industry, Staten added that ESA’s resources extend to the present, as well. Some of ESA’s students last year, she said, needed help from the organization when they were unable to attend their school’s computer labs and needed access to more powerful devices to finish projects like VR games.

“Most of these students are also not just facing the reality that they’re under-represented in STEM fields and in the video game industry, but they’re also often times from under-resourced communities,” Staten said.

Staten added that since ESA was not able to hold its annual event in March of 2020, the program was not able to provide as many scholarships as it wanted. But on top of the funds, all of the recipients will be able to participate in professional development opportunities on top of the funding. In this way, Staten said, ESA is able to invest in students as individuals and receive exposure and internship opportunities to help prepare for a job in the industry, and increase representation in gaming.

“We do really try to create an opportunity where we’re also creating role models,” Staten said. “So that’s another way that we are trying to help not only grow the next generation and empower that younger generation to consider STEAM careers, but also to buttress and provide opportunities for [underrepresented individuals] that have already made it for them to be celebrated.”

View the full list of 2021-2022 scholars here.

ESA Foundation Computer and Video Game Arts and Science Scholarship

  • Ah Young Joo, University of Southern California
  • Alisa Khieu, Western Governors University
  • Amira Said, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor,
  • Audrey Webb, University of Texas at Austin
  • Calex Raffield, University of California – Santa Cruz
  • Cierra O’Grady, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • Darcelis Gutierrez, New York University
  • Eghosa Ohenhen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Emanuel Acosta Gonzalez, Atlantic University College, Puerto Rico
  • Geneva Heyward, New York University
  • Gianni Plaza-Pizarro, Atlantic University College, Puerto Rico
  • Grace Li, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Heather Wright, Laguna College of Art and Design
  • Isaiah Swinton, DigiPen Institute of Technology
  • Jada Rozier-Williams, New York University
  • Kayleigh East, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Keith Gonzalez, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Mary Emerson, DigiPen Institute of Technology
  • Maurice Hendricks, University of Florida
  • Neha Vinjapuri, Stanford University
  • Randen Banuelos, University of California, Irvine
  • Roland Munguia, DigiPen Institute of Technology
  • Sadie Levy, Northeastern University
  • Sandy Tan, New York University
  • Sasha-Mylan Williams, University of Southern California
  • Selah Wright, University of Southern California
  • Sloane Miller, North Carolina A&T State University

ESA Foundation LGBTQ+ Service Scholarship, co-awarded with Gay Gaming Professionals:

  • Emma Reynolds, University of Southern California
  • Geneva Heyward, New York University
  • Morgan Hamilton, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Natalie Briceno, University of Texas at Austin
  • Randen Banuelos, University of California, Irvine
  • Valeria Arenas, Neumont University

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