The Event: Our Bronx NYVGCC Students Take Over The Microsoft Experience, Win Our Scholarships

Students from Mott Hall III gathered together for a group photo at The Microsoft Experience. Photo by Harold Goldberg

By Harold Goldberg

Yesterday in Midtown at the Microsoft Experience, NYVGCC students from the Bronx’s Mott Hall III middle school were invited to embark upon a tour and talk that included Xbox employees talking about their pathways to success, Forza Horizon gameplay, and the announcement of three Critics Circle college scholarships for the best review, game narrative, and social-justice-oriented poem.

Xbox Content Program Manager Albert Dankwa talked about his pathways to success during our Mott Hall III Critics Circle field trip to the Microsoft Experience. Photo by Harold Goldberg

The event began on Floor 7 when Albert Dankwa talked about his role as Microsoft Xbox social media manager. Dankwa made sure to note that there are jobs in games beyond developers and detailed how the team he oversees works together. Then, members of the Microsoft Experience team stepped up to speak about their own pathways to success, which began in retail, then saw them rise to become essential employees here. Via a presentation and a careers website, they showed students how they may be able to work for Microsoft one day, should they choose that path. They even informed students about the import of creating a LinkedIn profile.

Jasmine Rodriquez and Kevin Privette talked to students about how to get a job at Microsoft.

Soon after, the team displayed the latest shiny Surface products, letting students know which was the fastest and which had the most capacity for storage. We then moved down to a floor where a McLaren vehicle sat, running Forza Horizon within. “This car is the most expensive controller ever made,” said Privette.

The most expensive controller in the world.”
Students did not want to stop exploring the world of Forza Horizon.

Students moved upstairs another loft-like area which used to be dedicated Mixr, a space where esports tournaments were held. The leaders talked about the various jobs in esports beyond becoming a pro player, including production, camerawork and editing – and shoutcasting jobs in front of the camera. On Floor 3, the Bronx group was treated to a history lesson which included an early, first Xbox development kit and the idea that, 20 years ago, no one believed the Xbox would be around for very long. Microsoft proved them wrong. Finally, the young people moved to high tech individual gaming pods on which they indulged in Forza Horizon.

At the end of the event, educator Ryan O’Callaghan, who kindly organized the group, retrieved parental permission slips and arranged for a bus from the Bronx, asked students to gather ’round so the winners of our student contest at Mott Hall III could be announced. We want to thank our judges heartily, too: Ronald Gordon, Helen Pfeffer, Sherri L. Smith, Whitney Meers, Sara Clemens, Nick Capozzoli and Giovanni Colantonio.

Here are the winners of our 2023 New York Videogame Critics Circle College Scholarships for Mott Hall III:

1st Place  – Khloe Wilkerson     $3,000 + Choice Of Legion 5 Laptop, iPad or PS5

2nd Place – Theresa Afful          $2,000

3rd Place  – Serenity Cruz          $1,000

Congratulations, Khloe, Theresa and Serenity! We’ll hold onto the funds until these talented students go to college. While not everyone could win our scholarships, we wanted to reward everyone who attended all of the classes with $50 each. These attendance bonuses had a pot of $500, but since 11 students never missed a class, we made it $550. Checks were distributed at the event. So were a great variety of Minecraft and Legend of Zelda stickers.

We will publish some of the poems students have written on our website and/or in an upcoming book we’re planning. We’ll pay for these as well. We want to thank all of our awesome Mott Hall III students for working with the New York Videogame Critics Circle just as we want to thank everyone involved at the Microsoft Experience who helped us put this fascinating event together.

Journalist/author Harold Goldberg is the president and founder of the New York Videogame Critics Circle and the New York Game Awards.

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