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On Chess: Monsanto Fund partners with Chess Club to extend school program to rural areas

Chess programs are offered in many area schools.
Ryan Chester | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis has built a solid foundation of creating awareness and educating the urban area youth about chess. The challenge has been reaching similar audiences in rural communities ... until now.

By partnering with Monsanto Fund, the Chess Club is able to embark upon a new partnership featuring rural areas around St. Louis. Monsanto Fund, the philanthropic arm of the St. Louis-based company, recently announced a $20,580 grant to launch the program this summer.

Funding from this grant will allow the Chess Club to put its special resources to use and train up to 14 teachers from rural communities. The trained teachers will then return to their respective schools and establish 10-week-long chess programs for the 2015-16 school year.

Monsanto Fund believes building chess programs in these areas will promote critical skills in the students and prepare them to make positive impacts in the future. Studies show that chess improves performance in reasoning, long-term planning, decision-making, memory and judgment. All of these correlate to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills.

“STEM skills are essential for today’s young people, who in the near future will be the generation driving innovation and overcoming challenges through big ideas,” said Monsanto Fund President Deborah Patterson. “Monsanto Fund is proud to partner with the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis to bring its programs to young people in rural communities.”

Training will take place at the Chess Club in the Central West End and will be similar to what the club used to certify its own instructors. The teachers will also get the equipment they need: teaching materials, books, chessboards and sets. The goal of the program is to provide teachers in rural areas with the expertise necessary to teach the fundamentals of chess while promoting critical thinking, planning and sportsmanship skills.

Tony Rich, executive director of the Chess Club, believes the partnership with Monsanto Fund is the perfect complement to efforts to expand into previously untapped areas. Participating teachers and schools will keep all of the provided equipment and instructional materials from the pilot program to ensure that the club’s goal of building a sustainable, growth-driven outreach effort can be achieved.

“We’re great at training teachers, but we needed a partner to connect us to the outlying farming communities,” said Rich. “Monsanto is the perfect ally in this effort because of their commitment to supporting STEM education in rural America.”

After this school year, the program will be evaluated to see whether the original 14 schools have established sustainable chess programs. If successful, the next step will be to continue growing the rural community program.

Update: The 2015 U.S. Junior Closed Championship has officially concluded. The 10 competitors put up a close fight but in the end, Akshat Chandra took home the grand prize. With a total of 7 out of 9 points, Akshat won first prize which includes $6,000 and a seat at the 2016 U.S. Chess Championships. 

Jeffrey Xiong, the top rated player going into the tournament, won second place with 6.5 out of 9 followed closely behind by Arthur Shen with 6 out of 9.

For more information about the tournament and the results, visit www.uschesschamps.com/2015-us-junior-closed-championship/.

George Csolak is a freelance writer for the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center, which provides the On Chess columns.