Learning Life Lessons from Chess

Chess in the Schools President & CEO, Debbie Eastburn, and alum, Damion Josephs, share how chess is teaching valuable life lessons to kids in low-income, New York City schools.

2/1/17 #2013






"We are pleased to welcome Debbie Eastburn, who is President, CEO, Chess In The Schools and Damion Josephs, Chess In The Schools Alumni and also an attorney with the IBM corporation. Thank you both for joining us. Thank you for having us. Thank you. Short version of what Chess In The Schools is would be? Boy, it's hard to be short because we do so much. We teach chess in the schools in 44 New York City public schools... Title 1 schools, low income schools, so this year, we'll teach 11,000 kids. We also run free tournaments for any New York City kids. We also teach teachers how to teach chess in their schools if they don't have our program and we also have a college bound program for a smaller group of kids who want to continue chess through high school and we mentor them to be able to attend college. How did you get into this? I started in 1993 as a way to... my buddy said, "Hey Damion, I'm going to California next week for a chess tournament." I said, "What's chess? I want to go to California!" [laughter] From there, it just grew into a love of the game, so I started in third grade and I worked my way up through the program including the college bound program and here I am now. To what degree do you feel, Damion, that learning how to play chess has taught you... I know this is a ridiculously broad question, but about life? Life lessons at an early age I think are key for any individual so you think about critical thinking skills. You think about thinking analytically, thinking strategically, being able to think before you act and before you move. You can start to begin to see how those lessons which are really gameified in a particular way turn into life lessons as you sort of grow and develop as a person. Is that a big part of it? It is. We think that these lessons that Damien has just talked about... problem solving, critical thinking, analyzing games, concentration, patience... Wow. ...concentration. Think of all those things... That's looking at that shot right there? Right, right. Look at his concentration for sure our kids learn these skills in ways that they don't even know that they're learning the skills because they're learning chess, but they're exercising their brain every time they learn chess. Damion, let me ask you about this... The shot we just saw... the young woman... Sure. ...had her head down, focused. There are pictures of me doing that. I'm sure, but I'm thinking about this. I think about our children. I don't want to out our kids right now for doing this, but I'm thinking about their obsession about the technology in their hand..."