Chess Changes Lives!

Inspirational stories about how chess has impacted the lives of kids in our program. Have a story to share? Let us know.

"We have a very loving school community, children feel safe at school; At home, sometimes not quite as safe. Situational and generational poverty are some of the challenges our students face....I had one student this year who doesn’t do very well at school and doesn’t feel he is very smart. You should have seen his face when he made our chess team to go to regionals, and then was able to make it to state. He said it was the first time he felt smart at school. These are the moments we do this for.”
—Shawn Woods, 2015 Coach of the Year, Redmond School District

Preston Flexes His "Athletics for the  Mind"

Preston joined Chess for Success in 3rd grade. He enjoyed the unique strategy of the game and began to pick it up very quickly. That first year, he started to see a difference in his grades, specifically in math, which has become his favorite subject. In the 6th grade, he and his team made it to the National Chess Championship, and shortly afterwards he received the highest math score his teacher had ever seen on the OAKS (Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) test

In 2013, Preston joined our office as the intern. He is helping to create new lesson plans for more experienced players, grades chess assessments out students take, and he sets up the weekly chess puzzle in our window for passersby to solve. You'll see him with us at tournaments and community events.

From a shy young boy who had difficulty making eye contact with Chess for Success staff, he has become much more confident in all facets of his life. Preston is a wrestler on his school's team, was homecoming king his sophomore year, and was elected as a class respresentative for his junior and senior year. Applying to colleges now, he is looking forward to furthering his education in advanced mathematics and artificial intelligence development. Preston wants to make better artificial intelligence, and we have no doubt he will do it!

Amelia Builds a Sense of Identity  

Amelia was an emotional 2nd grader when she joined Chess for Success in fall of 2010. Her parents are divorced. Her mom is African-American and works full time, while her Caucasian father is a student with several learning disabilities. She spends time in both homes, and commutes to and from Beaverton and Portland on public transportation.

She was curious about chess, but more interested in the social nature of the club. Every time she saw her coach, she would ask when they would get their club shirts. (Each child receives a t-shirt with the design its club created.) When she finally received her shirt, her beaming smile showed her pride. She continued with the club through 5th grade, and as her involvement with chess changed, she changed.

Her teachers say Amelia has a great personality and, although she's obviously bright, has difficulty demonstrating what she knows in academic areas. Through her club involvement, her confidence and sense of self-worth grew. 

Shamar is making friends and winning chess games!

Shamar is a 7th grade African-American male student who has been in the Chess for Success program for two years. For the first three years of his life he was the victim of severe emotional, physical, and mental abuse. As a student, Shamar struggled with ADHD, PTSD, depression and social isolation. Until he enrolled in chess.

For the first few months, he lost every chess practice match, but he was determined to win a game. Shamar was focusing more in class and his ability to connect with his peers was growing each day. His confidence grew as well as the smile on his face.

This last school year, Shamar and his adopted family received two amazing pieces of news: he won his first chess match and his physician took him off of his ADHD medications. Shamar and his family are thrilled by this news, and believe chess helped make it happen.