Chess Cadets Championing West Philadelphia- by Jasmine Bullock

Chess mentor Fred Austin Working with students

Throughout the years, movies like Life of a King and Queen of Katwe have shown us how small, local clubs can change lives. This is happening at the 40th and Walnut Streets Library. The Walnut St. West Chess Cadets Chess Club has been practicing and competing for approximately ten years. The club is sponsored by the Local Friends of the Walnut St. West Library lead by group president, Alice Wells.

Each year 30 children ages 6 to 18 participate in the Walnut Street Libraries Chess Club. Children must be in first grade to attend and many of them return for several years. The current program consists of 32 students ranging from age 6 to 13. The children are expected to attend club sessions each week in order to make progress throughout the year. The students are broken into four groups based on skill level. Their continued participation and weekly commitment is exemplified through the wide range of growth throughout the year!

Student success would not be possible without the dedication of 8 coaches. Most of the coaches and mentors are solicited via word of mouth, the After School Activities Partnerships (ASAP) organization and local community groups. Current coach and mentor, Fred Austin, stumbled upon the club in 2011 when searching for a group to play chess with. He was impressed with the enthusiasm of the children and decided to share his talent and love for the game. In past years, former participants have returned to coach younger students while in high school. The club also has unwavering parent support. Each week, parents take turns helping during meeting sessions.

The team participates in approximately four tournaments, sponsored by ASAP, per year and has had several victories as individual competitors and as a team. In their most recent tournament, the Checkmate Violence Tournament at Temple University, Walnut St. West Chess Cadets competed with approximately 300 other participants and went home with four trophies including the 1st place prize!

Each year, the Walnut St. West Chess Cadets Chess Club meets on Wednesdays from September through June. Students are required to complete applications, which are available from librarians. The program runs on a rolling application process. Once spaces are filled, any additional applicants are placed on a waiting list. All students must re-apply each year in August.

For more information about the Walnut West Chess Cadets, contact library personnel at

https://www.freelibrary.org or wswlibraryfriends@gmail.com.

 

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