Students and Parents Describe Their Exciting Experience at the NRG Castle in the NASEF x NRG Carvana Rocket League Combine

Mar 27, 2024

 NASEF students recently competed in the elite final event in the NASEF x NRG Carvana Combine in Rocket League. Three high school students were chosen for the path-to-pro showcase, with the opportunity to learn from the talent and staff of the pro esports org NRG in an incredible hands-on learning experience. Keep reading to learn more about the Combine and to gain insights about the event and esports opportunity from the competing students and their parents.

Through the Combine, Carvana and NRG supported the development of students who learned about the world of content creation in Rocket League by creating a hype video and submitting it to the contest. The three finalists selected were Anss Dawod, Ocean Township High School in Oakhurst, New Jersey; Isaiah Spangler, Prosper High School in Prosper, Texas; and Kyler Withers, Buchanan High School in Buchanan, Michigan.

Students and chaperones were flown to the weekend event, which was broadcast live from Los Angeles from the legendary NRG Castle. They participated in a media day with the NRG staff, where they gained an insider’s perspective on the fun and hard work of life in the esports industry, with NRG staff and team members coming alongside the students to play, answer questions, and provide mentoring. The Combine was hosted by Rocket League legends Musty, GarrettG, and Chell, and it was livestreamed on Twitch at NRGgg and on the NRG Rocket League channel.  

Here is what the students and their parents had to say about the event:

Isaiah Spangler

Isaiah Spangler is known by his gamertag "snapalicious." Isaiah hails from Prosper High School in Prosper, Texas. Like many others, when facing the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Isaiah sought new ways to connect with friends and share his passion for gaming. Isaiah and his friends joined the esports club, and it was there that he discovered his love for competitive gaming and content creation. 

After the Combine event, Isaiah wrote to NASEF and said, “I'd like to thank NASEF for the amazing opportunity in LA for the NRG Combine.  Quite honestly, it is still surreal for me, even now, as professional content creators that I met there are now following me on social media and commenting.

“The opportunity of even going to LA, much less getting flown out for my esport, is an opportunity that you never think will arise. The whole experience was amazing: meeting all the creators, seeing who works behind the scenes, and watching all the moving parts that come together to create the picture we have today. The NRG Castle lived up to all my expectations, and I loved how it felt natural and as if we were never even being filmed. Everyone there was nice and welcoming. Being one of the high school students felt a little intimidating when I realized that there would be much older creators there, with followings already built up. But I still felt like I was one of the members in the group, and I competed up to the level of everyone else. This trip has taught me a lot, and it motivated me to want to start content creating. The connections, people I met with, and things I saw are super helpful, and I am so grateful for all of it.

“Getting tips from the first person to become successful in Rocket League content creating, Musty, was super surreal, and now I see the life of creating and making videos goes a lot more in-depth than just pushing out random videos. It showed me how bad some people want it; even if they have low followers, or not a lot of skill, it just pushes them even further and drives them that much more. All in all, this trip has changed my life for the better, and I can't wait to start creating on my own. (I've already started 🙂)”

After the Media Day but just before the competitive events kicked off at the Combine, Isaiah’s dad shared this about the experience so far:

Isaiah plans to pursue a combined Computer Science and Business degree in college. He is excited because he has read about how the esports space has grown exponentially in the last few years; even more impressive is the projected growth in the esports market over the next 10 years. He added, “The NRG Carvana Combine truly allowed me to see that the industry is so much more than just playing a game. I feel like I'm only scratching the surface, but I see now how it includes software engineering, content creation, marketing, business management, and more.  While I am a high school senior now, I have a feeling that we will see a lot of STEAM curriculum be refined around esports over the next few years, and I also believe we will see a big jump in education to middle school and junior high in this space as well. That’s exciting!”

Anss Dawod

Anss Dawod, also known by his gamertag "NOTLeather," is a dedicated student from Ocean Township High School in Oakhurst, New Jersey. He is a passionate Rocket League player and a content creator. Anss founded and leads Ocean Township High School's esports program.

Anss said, “I'm grateful for being part of the NRG Carvana Combine at the NRG Castle. A big thanks to NASEF for making this incredible opportunity a reality for esports enthusiasts like me. Meeting people from NRG Rocket League is such a cool experience.

“Being at this event is genuinely exciting. Thanks to NASEF for creating a space for us to grow in esports. It's not just an event; it's a significant step toward realizing dreams in the esports world.

“Meeting individuals from NRG Rocket League is a highlight, adding an extra layer of excitement to the whole experience. I've enjoyed talking with them, learning from their experiences, and picking up valuable tips. It's a big deal to be in the same space as these pros, and I'm savoring every moment. Some of the great takeaways I’ve had from this event is learning how to be a successful content creator, the time and dedication needed to do so, and the confidence you have to develop in yourself to succeed.

“Thanks again to NASEF for making all of this possible. This was unforgettable.”

Anss’s mother accompanied her son at the event. Like many parents, she initially didn’t know a lot about esports or the reality of the esports industry today and the potential for the future. However, she sported a proud smile and supported Anss as he competed and interacted with the others.

After the Combine, she said, “I was very surprised when Anss told me he got selected to be a part of an event of this magnitude. My opinion of esports took a full 360 turn because of the NASEF x NRG Carvana Combine. Everything was very organized and most of all, the members of NRG were all so respectful that I felt as if we were one big family. I was surprised by the excellent organization of the event and I was very proud of my son and his integration with the beautiful group of contestants. He has so much confidence in himself now, more than he’s ever had before. This motivated him to want to go pro and play Rocket League in college. He will never forget this event. It was truly once in a lifetime.”

 Kyler Withers

Kyler Withers, who goes by the gamertag "R31yk," is a dedicated student from Buchanan High School in Buchanan, Michigan. His hobbies include gaming, a passion for cars, leadership in esports, playing Valorant, and making people laugh. Kyler leaned into that for the talent show portion of the Combine, performing a card trick.

Kyler has been playing video games since he was just two and a half years old! His early introduction to gaming laid the foundation for the skills and determination that brought him to the NASEF NRG Carvana Combine. Kyler serves as the captain of his high school's esports team. He enjoys playing Valorant, and his peak in Rocket League is GC1. In addition to his gaming prowess, Kyler is known for his sense of humor and the ability to make people laugh. He also notes that his parents taught him “how to respect people and be a gentleman.” 

Events like the NASEF x NRG Carvana Combine illustrate NASEF’s commitment to a unique blend of play and learning for students. NASEF zeroes in on ways to leverage youth interest in esports to teach life and career skills and an understanding of career pathways. Members of NASEF appreciate NRG and Carvana for their partnership in supporting this mission by providing NASEF member students an opportunity to display their talent; receive mentorship from NRG staff, players, and content creators; build a network to help their esports careers; and compete for scholarships.

To learn about student opportunities in NASEF and read related stories about STEAM education and the esports industry, subscribe to the weekly Scholastic Esports SmartBrief. 

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