It’s in the game: CLC students learn, lead with esports

Leadership, communication, and collaboration are important skills to have in a democracy. They also work well in the world of competitive esports. 


Leadership, teamwork, motivation, and commitment to excellence are all qualities that can come from being part of a team. Some students at Civic Nebraska’s high-school community learning centers take part in esports to cultivate those characteristics.

Civic Nebraska’s CLCs at Lincoln High and Lincoln Northeast High both host after-school clubs that build students into competitive esports athletes. The clubs are overseen by Haroon Al Hayderthe school community coordinator at Lincoln High’s CLC for Civic Nebraska, and Michael Bandy, Civic Nebraska’s school community coordinator at the Lincoln Northeast CLC.

Al Hayder, who has led the LHS CLC for the past two years, said the programs support students who need a space to thrive with others who share their interests. Esports fills a big need in that respect, he said.

Lincoln High’s club is a varsity and junior-varsity sport and gives students the opportunity to play the games that they love while learning new strategies and ways to play competitively.

“Having diverse activities and programs at the school opens doors for many students to strengthen their emotional learning capacity,” Al Hayder said. “(Through esports and other clubs,) we help students learn about different programs for college and work with career paths that align with their visions.”

Lincoln High coaches Owen West and Amer Khan and Northeast coach Nicholas Andersen regularly work one-on-one with students at their respective schools, giving encouragement and offering tips for students with games like Overwatch, Rocket League, League of Legends, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The teams regularly compete with other schools around the state and country.

“I ask myself, How can I direct people positively and make sure that everyone is being taken care of? I’m continuing to grow as a person and as a leader, and have a passion to direct these kids down the right path,” Khan said.

Along the way, participants at both schools develop skills that come in handy in a democracy, such as leadership, communication, and collaboration.

“We want this club to be student-driven,” Northeast’s Andersen said. “We developed student leaders last year and have them operate in pods with the respective games they enjoy so they can focus on leadership and teaching younger kids teamwork.”

Cade Henke, a junior at Lincoln Northeast, is a student leader for the Rocket League division of the CLC’s club.

“I feel as if I’m on the same level as my peers when I play with them,” Henke said. “Some may be better mechanically (but) I can teach all students how to work and communicate better as a team regardless of their skill levels. I like the feeling that we’re all equal.”

Andersen said it’s satisfying to watch diverse groups of students work together and share in the team experience – whether it’s celebrating a collective victory or picking each other up after a loss.

“This community is something that these kids don’t have anywhere else, and we take pride in building that up day by day,” he said.

Al Hayder said: “This is a safe and inclusive space; we value everyone and don’t allow any disrespect or students to be unwelcoming towards others. We have diverse backgrounds, cultures, genders, and nationalities all coming together to share their thoughts and ideas and make a corroborative team to participate in a state or national competition.”

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After School Programs

  • Sherman Elementary School

    5618 N 14th Ave.
    Omaha, NE 68110

  • Lewis and Clark Middle School

    6901 Burt St.
    Omaha, NE 68132

  • Lothrop Magnet Elementary

    3300 N. 22nd St.
    Omaha, NE 68110

  • Campbell Elementary School

    2200 Dodge St.
    Lincoln, NE 68521

  • Lincoln High School

    2229 J St.
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  • Lincoln Northeast High School

    2635 N. 63rd St.
    Lincoln, NE 68507