Critics Circle Update: How We’ve Helped So Many During The Pandemic

As Autumn begins, here’s our New York Videogame Critics Circle update. Call it ‘How We Helped The Underserved During The Spring And Summer.” Our nonprofit has reached out to so many underserved students – despite the pandemic’s surge – that I want to highlight our important initiatives for you, as well as our progress. 

-Harold Goldberg, Executive Director and Founder

The Mayor’s Office’s video crew is creating a short documentary on the Circle’s work in Bronx homeless residences. Photo by Harold Goldberg

We’re Recognized By The NYC Mayor’s Office

We were named the best nonprofit in the Bronx during the pandemic! The backstory? During the pandemic, the NYC Mayor’s Office heard about the games and journalism work the Circle is doing in homeless shelters in the Bronx. The Mayor’s Office of Media And Entertainment had a goal of lauding one outstanding nonprofit in each borough and displaying their work with separate, short documentaries which will air frequently on television. They sent a crew of about 10 pros to shoot video of our Bronxworks class and interview students (photo above). The piece will premiere soon, the filmmakers tell us. We can’t wait to see it, and we’ll post more info here.

Bronxworks Interns Update

Throughout these difficult days, we’ve continued our outstanding partnership with the Bronxworks network of homeless shelters. Senior intern Isaac Espinosa has helped me teach our games journalism classes. Makeda Byfield, from one of the residences, has become an awesome paid intern for us. Not only is Makeda’s writing stellar, she is on time and enthusiastic. Makeda’s story about being evicted and being saved by games is absolutely perfect. Finally, Imani Brown from another Bronxworks residence will be our youngest intern ever at the age of 13. Isaac Espinosa will help Imani, often clad in his beloved Pokemon jacket, to get started with reviews and streaming as well.

DreamYard Scholarships And Our Newest Interns

We continued our long-term classes and scholarships with the DreamYard Prep School in the Bronx. In fact, we’re beginning our 8th year of mentorship with them. This past year with the help of educators Steve Spera and Rudy Blanco, we offered approximately $7,000 in scholarships. Jeison Liranzo won the top cash prize, which he’ll use at Brooklyn College this semester. And his first piece for us as a paid intern went viral. Jeison’s moving essay about growing up poor in the Dominican Republic and coming out as a young gay man touched us all.

Amazing Rockstar Internships

At the 10th Annual New York Game Awards, we announced a unique partnership with Rockstar Games. Rockstar took on two of our top senior interns as paid Rockstar interns. Rockstar has never had an ongoing program for college interns prior to our partnership. The fantastic team at Rockstar created internships for Ronald Gordon and Kimari Rennis based on the students’ areas of expertise. And the internships will continue with new students in 2022. We believe every game company can – and should – use this model to help smart, underserved students. 

NYC Department of Education Scholarships

In our ongoing effort to help underserved communities, we’ve partnered with the New York City Department of Education’s Students in Temporary Housing division to offer a scholarship contest that will span the five boroughs. So our partnership with Rockstar Games and the DOE will provide this $10,000 college scholarship to one talented student in a homeless residence in New York City. (Thanks to Board Chair Ted Houghton for his help with the DOE.) We hope to announce the winner at the 11th New York Game Awards in January, 2022.

Nationwide: The Fair Game Writing Challenge

It was our first nationwide scholarship for teens. Helen Pfeffer, Sherri Smith, Ronald Gordon, Sara Clemens, Whitney Meers and I were the judges for what we dubbed the Fair Game Writing Challenge. We brought this idea of students penning game reviews and game narratives to the Games for Change people, who kindly provided the infrastructure. Five winners across the nation received a cash prize and an offer from the Circle to participate in a special mentoring session.

Reggie Zoom Fundraiser

Our summer fundraiser with Board member and former Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé raised approximately $5,000 for the Circle’s nonprofit work. During the event, I interviewed Reggie and Whitney Meers kept the chat in check. Reggie went above and beyond, answering salient life and business questions from scores of fans. He also signed a Switch Lite for one lucky participant. The original event was scheduled for 90 minutes, but Reggie fielded questions for three hours – past midnight here in Manhattan. So thanks to Reggie, as always! Bobby Kent, a fan in the U.K. who is a writer, suggested an idea about how Bugsnax affected him as a disabled person. What a brilliant piece it was when done. All in all, this was a super successful one-night event.

The 11th New York Game Awards, Hosted By…

We’ll be back later in the Fall with more news from our non-profit. At that time, you’ll get the full info regarding January’s 11th Annual New York Game Awards as well! Reggie and I will host, and we hope to do it live on stage at a Manhattan theatre. If you find yourself in a giving mood, go to our PayPal Giving Fund and donate to our nonprofit. Until the next time, stay safe, stay smart and stay well!

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