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Monday, May 20, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesYoung Chess Players Head to Florida for Tourney

Young Chess Players Head to Florida for Tourney

Chess in Schools' Sinclair Wilkinson talks to students and parents about the upcoming trip.Eighteen students from St. Thomas and St. John will match their chess skills against other students from the Southeast region when they travel to Florida next week to compete in the U.S. Chess Federation Scholastic Tournament, thanks to a few generous sponsors who were honored Saturday afternoon during a reception held at Bertha C. Buschulte Middle School.

The Chess in Schools program is part of the Virgin Islands Institute for Teaching and Learning, Inc., a United Way funded non-profit agency that conducts programs for schoolchildren and parents. Moleto Smith, president of United Way, said, “United Way sees this as one of those programs that really enhances outcomes for the kids. With all of the economic hardships in our community, it’s great to be able to see the impact from the contributions of our donors.”

Sinclair Wilkinson, coordinator of the Chess in Schools program and former principal of Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, has always promoted chess in the schools and each year steps it up a notch. Expressing his extreme gratitude toward the sponsors, Wilkinson said, “This trip will expose the students to other kids who are playing chess. It will expand their horizons.”

Although the Chess in Schools program is primarily for students in the public schools, Wilkinson has included the best chess players from both public and private schools on St. Thomas and St. John.

The Prior Family Foundation provided the majority of funding for the trip, covering all of the students’ airfare and accommodations. “We wish the students success and we strongly believe the experience itself will be beneficial in their overall development as future leaders of our society,” said Neil Prior.

Rotary St. Thomas II had approached the Prior Foundation after agreeing to contribute toward the trip and also to go out into the community to raise funds. Simon Caines, president of Rotary St. Thomas II, explained that the organization has a strong tradition of supporting youth and youth programs. Caines is especially excited to sponsor the chess program because it “offers them the skill to think for themselves.”

Sen. Carlton “Ital” Dowe got involved in the fundraising after being approached by Wilkinson. Thanks to Dowe’s assistance and coordination, the chess program was able to get $4,000 from funds that had been appropriated from the Education Initiative Fund to be used for school athletic programs, another $2,000 from the Economic Development Authority and $2,500 from the Virgin Islands Department of Housing, Parks and Recreation.

“Not every child is out on the basketball court,” said Dowe. “It’s great to see these kids use their minds and have it materialize into something positive.” Dowe would like to see the program receive financial support annually.

Assistant Commissioner of Housing, Parks and Recreation Stanley Smith was on hand to receive thanks and to voice his hope that chess is added as a part of his department’s after-school and program. “We are very proud to be a part of this program and are trying to incorporate different activities into our after-school programs,” said Smith.

Caines, Dowe, Moleto Smith and Stanley Smith all noticed the same thing – out of the 18 students going on the trip, 16 of them were boys. With young males in the community increasingly at risk, chess offers a way to focus their energy in a positive direction.

Wilkinson will continue his efforts to increase participation in the chess program. “It is a positive experience for youngsters,” said Wilkinson. “I am not ready to give up on the youngsters in this community.”

Although not present at the reception, Merchants Commercial Bank was also a sponsor of the chess program’s Florida trip.

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