Chess Organization Positions Students to Make Right Moves

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Program is much more than tournaments and trophies; it helps low-income youth get into college.
When Eriberto Guzman decided in 2009 as a high school freshman to join the chess program at The Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem, he did it because it was a way to compete in national scholastic chess tournaments for free.

After several months of chess instruction, he eventually did go on with his teammates to win first place in a national chess championship, as well as second place as an individual in the same tournament.

But soon after Guzman got involved with the chess program at his school, he discovered it was about much more than winning tournaments and trophies.

“Once I joined, they started giving us college seminars and providing us opportunities for community service and to go to [cultural] events,” Guzman said. “It was so many things that would help in the future.”

The activities Guzman described came by way of College Bound, a program offered through Chess-in-the-Schools, a New York City-based nonprofit that brings chess lessons and tournaments to 32 elementary schools and 18 middle schools in mostly low-income neighborhoods throughout Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, reaching approximately 13,000 students.

Chess-in-the-Schools also has provided trainings and helped set up scholastic chess programs in cities from Miami to San Francisco.

Chess-in-the-Schools has gotten a lot of attention for its involvement with several schools that have won national titles, including Intermediate School 318, the school featured in the recently-released chess documentary “Brooklyn Castle,” as well as Middle School 118 and Public School 70, both of The Bronx.

But agency officials prefer to stress the organization’s work in getting young people from high-poverty areas into college, particularly selective colleges that they might not otherwise consider.

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