Sgt. Allen and Lt. Cardinale from the City of Sunrise Police Department play chess with local area students.

NSCF Chess Initiative Thrives Thanks to Partnership with Police

The National Scholastic Chess Foundation’s community chess programs in Broward County, Florida began in October 2014 when a $5,000 Law Enforcement Trust Fund donation from the City of Sunrise Police Department was used to present our Demystifying Chess Workshop for teachers, police and professionals from other organizations working with young people.

Since that first workshop, NSCF programs have grown to include multiple initiatives serving communities across the County with many focused on reaching at-risk youth and working with those in the juvenile justice system. The Sunrise Police Department has provided donations each year. Additional funding has been received from the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), the Broward Sheriff’s Advisory Council (BSAC), and the Sheriff’s Foundation of Broward County. Many donations have been awarded matching grants by the Broward Education Foundation, allowing the NSCF to double the amount of delivery.

Funds from law enforcement agencies have been directed specifically to: 

  1. training so that law enforcement and other first responders can use chess as a community engagement tool;
  2. chess instruction and recreational activities for at-risk youth; and
  3. chess instruction for young offenders.

Demystifying Chess Workshops Train Police Officers to Use Chess for Community Engagement

NSCF Executive Director teaches a workshop specifically for veterans and first responders that was held at the City of Sunrise Public Safety Building.

The NSCF’s Demystifying Chess Workshops are two full-day training sessions that equip teachers and other youth workers, mentors and parent volunteers to help students achieve success with chess and apply the skills they acquire to other subjects.

In Broward County, over 500 teachers and other professionals working with young people have completed at least the first of these workshops. Several workshops have been produced primarily for law enforcement officers, including one for BSO deputies hosted at the African American Research Library & Cultural Center, and our most recent workshop which was held at the Sunrise police station. 

Sunrise Police Sgt. Stephen Allen receives his certificate for completing his second Demystifying Chess Workshop and passing the online exam.

From this effort we have trained approximately 50 police officers and deputies from across south Florida, including community relations officers and school resource officers from Broward Sheriff’s Office, the Sunrise Police Department, and the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. These officers engage with the broader community, with a special focus on reaching young people. For example, BSO Deputies have added chess to the Police Athletic League programs in Deerfield Beach and West Park. In Deerfield Beach, chess has also been included in activities for the BSO Explorers, a youth program for teens who may consider a career in law enforcement.

Chess Programs in the Community

Deputy Williams regularly brings cadets from the Broward Sheriff's Office Explorers Program to our chess events.

Each school year, elected officials across Broward County host free open play chess events called The Mayor’s Chess Challenge. This has grown from one city to more than 20.

The NSCF sends instructors to each event to teach new people and help facilitate play. Our instructors are often accompanied by a few of the chess playing officers from the Sunrise Police Department. When there are transportation dollars available, BSO Explorers and coordinating deputies attend.

The annual Sunrise PD-sponsored block party and National Night Out celebration both feature chess tables and a chance to play the officers.

In Sunrise, the chess playing officers will stop in at our “chess tent” during open air concerts and community festivals produced each month by the city’s Leisure Services Department. The officers will join our NSCF staff instructors to play games against the children.  

Officers will stop in before scholastic chess tournaments to play a few games before the formal competition begins. And the Department invites the NSCF to set up a chess tent at their community events, including their annual block party, pop-up barbecues in different neighborhoods, and the National Night Out celebration. In summer, bicycle patrol officers even give out travel chess sets to children they meet.

Chess Programs for At-Risk Youth

One Tuesday evening Sunrise Police Lt. Cardinale dropped by a class at a community center to play a few games and met Logan Moo-Young. He found out Logan was interested in becoming a police officer when he grows up.

In an effort to serve at-risk young people, the NSCF introduced community-based chess instruction in “high-needs” areas of Broward County. The goal for these programs is to facilitate and unleash critical thinking skills, teach appropriate social behavior, bring families together, and help children develop the confidence that they have the intellectual capacity to do great things in life. 

Target areas include selected neighborhoods in Fort Lauderdale, Oakland Park, Lauderdale Lakes, Miramar, Tamarac, Lauderhill and Sunrise. In addition to the lessons and play directed by our NSCF instructors, often our chess-playing police officers will drop by to play a few games and engage with the students.

The following week, an off-duty Sgt. Arroyo came by to play and answer Logan’s questions about the job and the training he would need.

In addition to weekly open play and instruction, funding from BSO, BSAC and the Sunrise Police Department help the NSCF produce free scholastic tournaments. While most are held in city community centers and gymnasiums, one recent tournament was held on-site at the Sunrise Police Department.

These fun events give our students a chance to put their chess knowledge to the test, and to meet other aspiring chess players from across the County. Tournaments are organized with one section for elementary students and another for middle/high and are open to all scholastic players, regardless of residency.

Young Offenders Programs

The third focus area for NSCF is working with young people already involved in the juvenile justice system.

According to Florida Policy Institute, “on average, 70 to 80 percent of incarcerated youth are rearrested within three years, often committing worse crimes. In Florida, 35 to 67 percent of the youth will be rearrested within a year for committing a new misdemeanor or felony crime.” If we want to make a difference in the lives of these young people, and lower crime rates overall, funding interventions that equip young people to make better decisions is certainly a positive investment. The NSCF believes chess can be one of these interventions.

Programming began in the Juvenile Detention Center with NSCF providing support for one of the teachers who had completed our Demystifying Chess Workshops. It then expanded to the NSCF sending our mentoring director into the detention center on a weekly basis, as well as sending one of our full-time chess teachers into two treatment centers (Broward Youth Treatment Center and Pompano Youth Treatment Center) where young men are remanded for a minimum 9-month program. This chess initiative has been in operation every Friday for 4 years.

The majority of these young men had little or no experience with chess and many of them have embraced the game, not only playing in their class time but also in their out-of-school time. In addition to books, boards and sets donated to the classroom teachers, grant funding has allowed the NSCF to give extra sets for use in common areas during free time.

FIDE Master Sunil Weeramantry speaks to PYTC students.

Periodically, some of the students participate in inter-facility chess tournaments. The visiting facility arranges security and transportation for a team of young competitors selected by their classroom teachers. In addition to showing interest and proficiency in chess, eligible students must have shown interest in their general classes and not received any disciplinary actions. 

The most recent event was hosted by Pompano Youth Treatment Center. Visitors included the Mayor of Pompano Beach, Rex Hardin, the Mayor of Sunrise, Michael Ryan, and the NSCF’s Executive Director Sunil Weeramantry.

Sunrise Mayor Mike Ryan looks over a game between 2 PYTC students.

Prior to the arrival of the opposing team, both Sunil and Sunrise Mayor Ryan were able to play some games with the PYTC students and discuss concepts and how chess is engaging the students. One young man shared that being sent to PYTC was the best thing that ever happened to him and that, in chess, he finally found something he could be good at. PYTC’s Executive Director not only shared his appreciation of the chess program in his facility but got some tips from Sunil to teach his own son.

Students from BYTC and PYTC are receiving tournament rules from our NSCF Instructor, Chris Goldthorpe, prior to the first round of play while corrections staff look on.

Whereas these students cannot win prizes, students receive certificates for their folders. The students also compete for the BYTC/PYTC Chess Challenge trophy which is displayed in the winning facility.

Normally we are not able to take photos inside the Department of Juvenile Justice facilities due to privacy concerns, but this time we were provided these pictures (student faces are pixelated) so we could give our supporters a sense of the program.

The NSCF’s Mourice Hylton (right) and Fort Lauderdale Police officers use chess to engage and mentor students at AMI Kids.

Our fourth juvenile justice program works with students who are on probation and attend an alternative school called AMI Kids that provides counseling and job training in addition to academics. The NSCF provides an instructor/mentor who teaches a class during the school day, then facilitates an after-school program called “Say It With Ya’ Chess.”

Through the Demystifying Chess Workshops, the NSCF trained three of AMI’s students to become peer-mentors. Training was also provided to AMI’s Executive Director and two Fort Lauderdale Police Officers. The officers now come to play chess and talk about career and life skills one evening each week. Recently, a Florida state representative heard about the program and came to visit and to answer career questions from the students.

Summary

The NSCF has enjoyed tremendous success by offering chess to help these targeted communities. By engaging young people with chess, we teach them to evaluate their decision-making process and hopefully make better life choices going forward. Police officers are able to connect with the students in a non-threatening environment, learning from each other, and building relationships. 

For more information on these programs or to learn how we can assist your community engagement, at-risk youth or juvenile justice efforts, please contact Robert McLellan, Program Director, via email: robert@nscfchess.org, or by telephone: (818) 469-2063.

What our Partners are Saying

The Sunrise Center for Excellence in Chess and NSCF have been invaluable community outreach partners for the Sunrise Police Department. These past six years, our officers have been able to play with and speak to countless children and adults during open matches, tournaments and community events. We have developed meaningful conversations and long-lasting relationships because of the NSCF’s work.

Chess is a game where sound decision-making, forward thinking and sacrifices are necessary. The same is true in everyday life. We are proud and honored to have collaborated with Sunil, Robert and their team and look forward to many more years of enriching community engagement through the lessons of the great game of Chess.

Chief Anthony Rosa, The City of Sunrise Police Department

This letter is intended as a letter of reference for the National Scholastic Chess Foundation. I have had the privilege to work with Mr. McLellan and Mr. Goldthorpe for the past three years. As the Supplemental Services coordinator for both Broward Youth Treatment Center and Pompano Youth Treatment Center (residential commitment facilities for males ages 13-18), I have witnessed first-hand what a top rate chess program Mr. McLellan and Mr. Goldthorpe operate.

The chess program has introduced and exposed many of the youths to the game of chess for the very first time. More than likely, the youths would not have had this opportunity to learn the game if it were not for the National Scholastic Chess Foundation. In addition to imparting the concepts and rules of chess, Mr. Goldthorpe has taught youths cognitive reasoning, logic, strategic thinking, and sportsmanship. These qualities have helped the youths in their other academic subjects and are important traits to possess in a complex information age that requires critical thinking. Mr. Goldthorpe is always very patient and supportive with the youths he interacts with.

The National Scholastic Chess Foundation is a vital component of our comprehensive educational program to meet the diverse academic, social/emotional, and recreational needs of our youths. They have demonstrated a commitment to serve challenging youths in difficult circumstances. In my professional judgement, the National Scholastic Chess Foundation would be an asset to any organization that would utilize their services.

Michael Lyons, Academic Team Leader/Supplemental Service Coordinator, Broward Youth and Pompano Youth Treatment Centers