Chess for Success Year End Campaign

Chess for Success Year End Campaign for Growth

"Shokei's confidence was low because he struggled to focus on his schoolwork and get things done because of ADHD. He felt like a failure, but his confidence grew when he could sit, play and finish. Chess for Success taught him that he could finish something, which built his self-esteem, and this confidence carried over to other things in his life."
-Cozunobu, dad of 3rd grader Shokei

Thank you for supporting Chess for Success. Because of you, there has been growth and change. Our goal is to help kids grow holistically in school and life. As the pandemic eases, we are tasked with meeting new demands. This has required us to respond to unique programming needs. In this letter, I want to share the story of one of our students whose barriers seemed to become increasingly impossible when faced with staying home and safe.

Shokei is a 3rd grader with abundant energy and joy; he loves baseball and his little brother Jayden. His mother has a condition that puts her at high risk of severe effects from the COVID-19 virus. When the pandemic hit, Shokei had to start homeschooling much sooner than other kids and stayed home for a more extended time. Shokei already struggled with concentrating in class, so his struggles only increased when at-home online learning was introduced.

He was in danger of falling even further behind when his parents found Chess for Success. Although Shokei’s parents had heard that the benefits of playing chess helped with concentration and learning, they were shocked to see how he responded to his chess lessons and coach. Chess became his new favorite thing, and best of all, during class, he was calm and could sit through an entire 1-hour session.

Cozunobu, Shokei’s father, was amazed at the results. The effects of his involvement with Chess for Success didn't stop at concentration. "Before chess, Shokei couldn't even sit for 15 seconds to focus on anything before wanting to move to something else." Shokei’s parents began to see his confidence flourish as he could finish games and even win them! Up to this point, Shokei's self-esteem was low. He felt terrible that he couldn't finish things like other kids did. He felt like he wasn't good enough, but this began to change with every move he made on the chess board.

Within weeks of participating in chess club, he could concentrate on schoolwork and other extracurricular activities such as baseball. His struggles became successes. He even qualified for and participated in the Chess for Success 55th Annual State Tournament and completed 5 matches without interruption. Chess is now a part of his personal life. He participates in one of our community clubs and plays chess with his little brother Jayden.

Shokei's story is not uncommon. After more than 26 years of providing programming in Oregon, we have heard many stories from kids, parents, and teachers about the difference Chess for Success’s clubs have made for them. We recognize the need for programs like ours to ensure a prosperous future for the youth in our communities.

Oregon youth suffer from a lack of economic well-being and educational success, and “two of every three fourth-graders are not proficient in reading.” This statistic is alarming, and support for programs that improve our kids' chances of success in their educational efforts should be a top priority. We cannot continue to fail our kids in this regard; we must act now to ensure a future of thriving, flourishing communities in Oregon.

Not only do Oregon children fall behind in educational outcomes, but they also suffer from mental health struggles at a staggering rate. We now know that “children were more likely to experience anxiety and depression during the first year of the COVID-19 crisis than previously." In addition, "In Oregon, the rise is even more dramatic — the statewide rate climbed by 40%, from 11% (83,000 children) to 16.1% (117,000 children), meaning nearly 34,000 more Oregon children experienced anxiety or depression in the first year of the pandemic."

Chess is proven to help students become better learners by teaching them problem-solving, patience, and focus skills. It bolsters visualization skills, critical thinking, self-awareness, abstract reasoning, strategic planning, and foresight. These additional barriers to youth wellness have given us pause. How do we, as a youth development and wellness organization, help more kids grow holistically?

This year we expanded our services and debuted our new Chess for Success Learning and Wellness program. In addition to the program, you have known and trusted for 26+ years, we have developed a pilot program that augments the skills learned in chess by applying mindfulness, distress tolerance, and emotional regulation. We are deploying this new curriculum at six schools to help kids experiencing mental health challenges.

This will ensure they get the benefits of improved education and the skills they need to succeed outside the classroom. Our new Learning & Wellness program takes us closer to bridging the gaps created by systemic racism, low income, lack of safely accessible programs, and the struggles of mental health and the lack of mental health support.

Please support Chess for Success with a meaningful gift to help kids like Shokei find the confidence and focus he and his parents worried was out of reach. Like many kids in Oregon, he wants nothing more than a bright, prosperous future. Your previous support made this life-changing impact possible, and we hope you will consider renewing your gift today.