750 students- all ages, all backgrounds- in one room, bent over chess boards, silently pouring over their games. These are New York public school students, these are Chess-in-the-Schools students. Since 1986, Chess-in-the-Schools, an educational nonprofit, has taught chess to over half a million public school students, using the game as a tool to inspire inner city youth to go to college. Chess-in-the-Schools also trains teachers, giving them the knowledge and materials to implement chess programs in their schools.
The students we serve live in communities of need. Chess-in-the-Schools provides the structure and guidance necessary for students to achieve in school. The nonprofit begins teaching in the classroom at the third grade level, targeting only Title 1 schools (where 40% or more of the students are below the poverty line.) Using chess to increase academic focus, the skills of the game are transferable to life skills. Chess-in-the-Schools engages students in after-school clubs, scholastic tournaments, and eventually the College Bound Program. Chess-in-the-Schools also started Middle School Initiative, focusing on at-risk junior high school students and introducing them to college through college tours, fairs, and cultural activities. Though improved academics are at the core of the mission, students who participate consistently in all aspects of the program, find themselves with a stronger sense of self and an emotional stability that allows them to move beyond their neighborhood.
If chess is the hook used to entice the students, college (and eventual career placement) is the ultimate goal. The residual benefits of the program can be seen in the students’ test scores, but also in their increased self-esteem and heightened sense of community. Chess gives them something to do; Chess-in-the-Schools gives them something to work towards.
Special Thanks: Chess-in-the-Schools