Oak Hill Collaborative to Host Video Game Class

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Video games are often seen as a distraction from studies, but a new Oak Hill Collaborative initiative aims to use them to keep students engaged in their education.

This fall, the South Side neighborhood and community revitalization organization will offer the High School Video Game Jam, a class in video game development.

During the program, which is expected to run three to four weeks, students will learn how to develop and program their own video games and see “how technology can be a pathway,” Pat Kerrigan, Oak Hill Collaborative executive director, said.

“As mayor, I need to grow future leaders, and in the 21st century I want Youngstown to be on the cutting edge, of technology,” Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said during a ceremonial check presentation at his office Thursday afternoon. “This is just the start.”

The initiative grew out of discussions between Kerrigan and Steve Kristan, director of external affairs for AT&T, which donated $10,000 toward the program.

“We need more people who are educated,” Kristan said. “When you look at where we’re going with smart cities and wireless technology, everything is all about technology now.”

Goals of the project include getting kids interested in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – and reducing the number of kids who don’t complete high school by engaging them in something that interests them.

“Every 26 seconds, a high school student drops out,” Kristan remarked.

According to a report underwritten in part by AT&T, in 2008, the last year for which national data was available, the high school graduation rate was 75%. That represented a three-percentage-point improvement from 2001, but gains are coming too slowly to reach the 90% goal in 2020 then-President Barack Obama set in 2009.

“Way too many students drop out for a variety of reasons, but the big reason is they don’t see value in staying in school,” Kristan said. Kids enjoy playing video games so the idea is to engage them on another level. “If they can unpack that and understand it, then they can stay in school and maybe do something later on at Youngstown State University or what have you.”

In the program, Kendra Corpier, founder of Coal Creek Game Dev (formerly known as Youngstown Game Developers), will introduce participants to the C++ programming language and a game engine, a template that complies the graphics, sound and code for a video game.

“They’ll be able to create their own levels and modify things to whatever they want, and take it home and share it with their friends and family,” Corpier said. They also potentially could publish it through Epic Games, which developed the game engine, Unreal Engine, which will be used.

The course will consist of six different full-day events for a total of 50 students, 24 in the fall and another 25 during the winter or spring. AT&T’s donation will be used to pay for instructors, equipment and other expenses related to a video game development workshop, as well as scholarships, Kerrigan said.

Pictured: Steve Kristan, director of external affairs for AT&T; Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown; and Pat Kerrigan, Oak Hill Collaborative executive director.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.