Alum uses chess to teach life skills to at-risk youth

Above (L-R): SaKeidra Cobb, Dan Watts (ELA Teacher), John L. Dykes Jr., Jamorya Jenkins and Dylan Laws

AUGUSTA, GA – When Dr. Thaddeus Shubert, professional school counselor at the Burke County Academy of Success Life Center (BCASLC), researched ways to help his alternative school students develop into productive citizens and lifelong learners, he turned to Georgia Regents University for help. And the Checkmate Chess Club was born.

“The purpose of the club is to teach the character education qualities of respect for self, respect for others, self-control, citizenship, integrity, perseverance, virtue and sportsmanship,” Shubert said. “My mentor, Dr. Charles Jackson, suggested the idea.”

Teaching the game of chess to at-risk youth is a strategy to reinforce the importance of decision making skills, respect for authority, non-verbal communication skills and critical and higher level thinking skills. A landmark study released in 2000 found that students who played chess scored higher in areas of academic achievement including math, spatial analysis and non-verbal reasoning ability.

Although often perceived as a battle, chess is also about quadrants and coordinates, lines and angles, thinking strategically and foreseeing consequences, weighing options and making decisions.

“These skills can be transferred in real life experiences because my students are learning the importance of respect of authority and how to accomplish their goals in real life situations, just as in the game of chess,” Shubert said.

Retired Burke County Public Schools educator and chess enthusiast John Dykes Jr., volunteers as the chess instructor. BCASLC Science teacher Charles Duggans and Shubert serve as club sponsors.

The club meets weekly during small group counseling sessions. The 18 membership spaces are filled, and there is a waiting list for next semester.

“We have completed our first nine weeks and will be aggregating data to determine its effectiveness,” Shubert said.

The Checkmate Chess Club will sponsor a district-wide chess tournament on Dec. 17.  Call 706-554-8046 for more information.

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