Photo finish: City Kids Find their Inner Kings and Queens

Students learn how to make their own decisions in the after-school program at P.S. 36 (photo by Jeff Mays)

DNAinfo reported on an after-school chess program in Harlem with a twist — the children are the chess pieces on a giant board. The Chess Lords program offers students a competitive alternative to some of the more toxic rivalries that surround them.

Many of the kids at P.S. 36 are from the nearby Manhattanville and Grant Houses where a long-time rivalry has occasionally turned deadly. On September 11, 2011, Murry Bergtraum High School senior basketball star Tyshana “Chicken” Murphy was gunned down over what police think was a feud between the two public housing complexes.

The program teaches a host of skills, including critical thinking, mathematics, and discipline. And students say they feel the effects.

The chess lessons have already started to translate into life lessons.

“It helps me in school. If I see another person bullying another person I try to protect them,” said Campbell. “I can be like a knight, rook or bishop.”

Students have also started to identify with the pieces.

“I like the queen because it can protect other pieces,” said Caralyne Suarez, 10, a fifth-grader. “When I’m at home I feel like the queen. I can tell my brother what to do. I feel like I have more power.”

DNAinfo also has a video piece on the program.

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