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ESA Foundation to Honor Laila Shabir at 20th Anniversary of Nite to Unite

The Girls Make Games visionary will receive the gala’s award honoring philanthropy

WASHINGTON – February 9, 2018 – The ESA Foundation today announced it will honor Laila Shabir at the 20th anniversary of Nite to Unite on March 20 in San Francisco. The LearnDistrict founder and CEO will receive the annual charity gala’s Visionary Award for her company’s female-focused Girls Make Games summer camps, workshops, and games.

Each year, Nite to Unite brings together more than 600 leaders from the video game industry to celebrate video games and the positive impact they have on the lives of children. The event also raises money in support of the ESA Foundation’s mission to provide children and aspiring video game creators around the country real opportunities to pursue their dreams of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) careers. Over the past 20 years, funds from Nite to Unite have helped the Foundation provide over $900,000 in scholarships for women and minority students and award over 120 grants for charitable organizations that harness the power of interactive technology to improve the lives of America’s youth.

“Laila Shabir’s inspiring work with Girls Make Games – empowering young women and helping to create a more vibrant and diverse video game industry – embodies the spirit of the ESA Foundation,” said Executive Director of the ESA Foundation, Anastasia Staten. “Encouraging and enabling girls to enter STEAM fields is critical to bringing their unique knowledge and perspective to the video game industry.”

A Pakistani immigrant raised in the United Arab Emirates and graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Shabir pursued finance and policymaking on Wall Street and Capitol Hill before founding LearnDistrict, which makes educational games and interactive experiences. She conceived Girls Make Games while trying to understand why more women were not a part of the video game industry. The program, which teaches girls game development and offers them a home to express their shared love of playing and creating video games, now operates camps and workshops in 41 cities around the globe.

“Working with young girls is endlessly inspiring and energizing,” said Shabir. “They look at everything, including games, and see limitless potential. It gives me hope and reaffirms my belief in the power of good in video games. Every girl who ever wanted to make a game should have the confidence and the opportunity to do so.”

In 2014, named Shabir the Games Industry Person of the Year, and in 2016, she received the Games Industry Rising Stars Award from ID@Xbox. A game developer and proud gamer herself, Shabir has set a personal goal to teach one million girls how to makes games through her work by 2020. Shabir is the third recipient of the Nite to Unite Visionary Award since its creation in 2016. Previous recipients include Jeromy Adams, founder of Extra Life, and John Graham, founder of Humble Bundle.

The Visionary Award, which recognizes innovators who leverage entertainment software to inspire and make a difference in the lives of America’s youth, is one of the awards the ESA Foundation presents at Nite to Unite.

Nite to Unite will take place at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco at 6 p.m. on March 20, 2018. To make a donation, purchase tickets, or for more information on sponsorship opportunities, visit the Nite to Unite website at or email

About the ESA Foundation

Created by the American entertainment software industry, the ESA Foundation works to make a positive difference in the lives of America’s youth by providing scholarships to the next generation of industry innovators and supporting charitable organizations and schools that leverage entertainment software and technology. The ESA Foundation receives its primary funding proceeds from the signature annual fundraiser Nite to Unite and other charitable initiatives. For more information, please visit the ESA Foundation website or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.


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