Saturday, January 31, 2015

Chess & the SIUE/East St. Louis Charter School

Students at the Charter High School playing chess, October 2014
Last semester, a group of us introduced students at the SIUE/East St. Louis Charter High School participating in our after-school program to chess. Who knew that the game would become such a hit?

I had been meaning to bring up chess in our program for some time, mainly because of a course I've been teaching for collegiate black men. For years in the class, I've been talking chess and more broadly, strategic moves with the guys.

I have fond memories of traveling to New York City in 2010 with some of my SIUE students and encouraging them to play games of chess with the men in the parks. My student Dometi Pongo and I spent considerable time at this well-known spot, the Village Chess Shop.

Dometi Pongo at the Village Chess Shop in NYC in May 2010
Pongo, ever cerebral, displayed a passion for the game and its implications that stuck with me. Remember to share this moment with the young'ins, I told myself as I observed Pongo playing one evening in New York. That was back in 2010 (the store may have closed or changed locations).

Over the last few years, the guys and I in my fall literature courses would mention chess and other strategy games. I was always trying to figure out ways to do even more. Things came together over the summer as my colleagues and I were considering upcoming plans for high school students.

We got a really big boost when my colleague professor Danice Brown secured free chess sets from the
World Chess Hall of Fame (WCHOF) in St. Louis. What a generous gift. Over a couple of sessions, we introduced the students to the rules and playing the game, and well, there was a wonderful response.

Charter school students playing chess at World Chess Hall of Fame, Jan. 30, 2015

On January 30, we took a group of the high school students to a chess and hip hop exhibit at the WCHOF. What really stood out to me was that anytime there was a chess set available in a room of the museum, groups of our students would gather around to play. The exhibit was one thing, but actually getting involved with the acts of playing chess was something that really enthused the young folks.    

Notebook on the GRIT program

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