Martin Luther King Towers Chess Club

Academic Enrichment Grant 2019-2020 Project Summary

George Donaldson

Martin Luther King Jr. SCAN Cornerstone Community Center • Bronx, NY

The Martin Luther King Jr. Chess club’s mission is to develop the skills and assets of urban and other at-risk youth in Harlem in support of successful educations and health outcomes. This chess program is grounded in critical thinking skills and the discipline inherent in chess and the related skill development that comes with learning this complex game. The goal is to grow the program into a group of 20-30 participants who will further their involvement with chess and use this towards academic excellence. The confidence and skills that they develop in this program will help inspire them to become peer leaders and act as a positive force in their peer groups and in the world.
Based in existing experience with the club, the project team anticipates attracting three types of kids: those who have limited to no experience at chess, and those who, through in-school programs, have been exposed to the game of chess. There will also be kids who play at an intermediate and advanced level. The program will address those three levels of participants. The program will outreach in the Harlem and East Harlem communities, through schools, community groups and existing after-school programs to gain more participants in this free program. This club offers a sanctuary for participants, where their intelligence is celebrated at its level, encouraging them to develop their potential.
The project team believes that the power of a group is that it helps foster a culture of positive peer pressure that motivates participants towards embracing the long-term benefits of perseverance, critical thinking and self-esteem. There are a plethora of studies that show that exposure to chess has many positive outcomes for youth especially in the areas of academic performance and self-esteem. These are often areas of great concern for families in Harlem. Contributing to the sustainability of this chess program will reinforce the program’s commitment to the Harlem community through investing in its greatest asset, its youth. The group is advised and supported by the St. Nicholas Chess-4-Kids program founded in 2010 focused on directly positively impacting Harlem youth through the use of Chess and educational support activities.

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