Gaming for Growth: How one student obtained the unthinkable

Julia Fechter

Columbia, South Carolina resident Jamie Costner was running out of options. He dropped out of high school during his senior year and worked full-time at a pizza restaurant for minimum wage. He did not have the money to pay rent at the apartment where he was living, which meant he would be kicked out soon.

Enter Kevin Williams, the co-founder and Executive Director of Southern Collegiate Gaming (SCG). SCG is a gaming organization that equips students to participate in casual and collegiate-level competitive gaming.

Williams met Costner while visiting Columbia. At the time, college was the furthest thing from Costner’s mind. Costner, a freshman business management and education major, never expected that with Williams’ help, he would earn a $12,000 scholarship related to video games.

The Road to Southern

Costner was working on his GED in the summer of 2015 when he met Williams.

“We met at a pizza place, where I would go play video games on the internet there because I didn’t have it at home. He [Williams] was like ‘Hey’. He lived down in Statesboro, so we generally talked through Skype and games,” Costner said.

Costner’s personal life continued to decline. He did not live with his parents, and mooched off of his friends until they got sick of it. He reached out to Williams in late August 2015.

“I called him and asked, ‘Hey, what would it take for me to move down there to Georgia Southern?’”, Costner said.

Costner thought if there was any way he was going to do it, then he would. if he got kicked out of his apartment, he would be homeless.

Most of Costner’s friends were against him moving, but his parents cautiously accepted it.

When he visited Georgia Southern’s campus that September, Williams told him about the SCG-affiliated scholarship. The two started working together to make the scholarship a reality, and Costner moved to Statesboro the next month.

Costner applied to East Georgia State College two weeks before the spring term started. After being accepted, he took classes there the spring and summer 2016 terms. For now, he still takes classes there.

Addressing the need

“We did give a scholarship last year [Costner’s scholarship]. It was $12,000. It’s called a unique needs scholarship, and it gives one student the ability to go to the university that otherwise couldn’t,” Williams said.

Williams had Costner write down a list of 50 to 100 [people’s] names from his past. This proved difficult for Costner. He wondered if people would donate since he had already exhausted his resources in Columbia.

“What we do is we have donors that send in money monthly for him. He gets a portion of that every month to help with his books and tuition,” Williams said.

The scholarship will also pay off most or all of Costner’s school-related debts by the time he graduates.

As with any scholarship, Costner had to uphold his end of the agreement.

“Part of the scholarship requires me to help with things like setting up club events and activities, help manage those events and activities, answer any questions any new people might have,” Costner said.

Leading by example

Another requirement of the scholarship is that Costner undergo a mentorship program with SCG.

“One of my specific jobs is facilitating the mentorship program. I recruit members from local churches and business leaders to help do one-on-one trainings with the student who’s receiving the scholarship,” Williams said.

Kevin did not present himself as a choice for a life coach when explaining the program to Costner. However, Costner asked whether or not Williams could be his life coach, and Williams agreed.

Since then, one of the biggest lessons Costner learned from Williams dealt with their mutual Christian faith.

Costner began to realize, around the time he moved to Statesboro, that he had problems he could not handle by himself, regardless of his efforts. He would end up back in the same spot, which frustrated him.

From observing Williams’ words and actions, Costner was able to see Williams walk in a freedom that he never could.

“I asked Kevin the difference between what he was doing and what he believed and what I was doing and what I believed,” Costner said.

According to Costner, he learned that difference was the freeing power of the holy spirit, which he didn’t have access to then, but does now. Every cyclical pattern he was stuck in is now gone.

“I would not be here, even if I had moved down here, if I hadn’t invested in that [faith] and sought that out, I would not be sitting here talking to you,” Costner said.

Home away from home

Another benefit for Costner is that, through Williams and others, he has been able to meet other gamers like him in SCG.

“It [SCG] gives people a chance to come out of their rooms and come meet other like-minded people. Even if you don’t play the same games, you have the same mindset of ‘I like to play games, and this is a hobby I enjoy’,” Matthew Tyler, sophomore computer science major, said.

Some of Costner’s best memories have been walking in to SCG’s house and saying hello and talking to everyone there.

Costner said,”Someone will be like ‘Let’s take a break and play some Smash [Brothers] so I can go play with them. Being able to walk into a house full of people like me who will welcome me the second I walk in. It’s like family.”