We started the Chess program at Hamilton three years ago, the beginning of our interest in building opportunity for Hamilton kids. In year one we offered 4th and 5th grades a chess club at lunch-time, starting from scratch learning about teaching chess from other programs, and using a lot of trial and error as our guide. Eventually we found a chess room, dressed it up, and started playing chess. We definitely put the organic in organic growth.
We had a bit of a following so we added 3rd grade and middle school last year...still all in a club environment, and this year we included 2nd grade, added after school chess and began competitive chess, hiring Women’s Grand Master, Carla Heredia…Coach Carla. We see around 140 kids each week with well over 30 kids participating in tournaments so far. We’ve been to tournaments in Berkeley, San Rafael at Mark Day School, and hosted a tournament at the Hamilton Gym in December. We have a notion of making Hamilton School a hub for tournament chess in the county and beyond.
At Hamilton, especially 3 or 4 years ago, we didn’t see a lot of engagement, around education, sports, competition…and much of that was because opportunity was so limited. Whether at school, or away from school around the county, kids need engagement and challenge…where they learn sportsmanship, effort and reward…where they have fun, and build grit. Hamilton kids are every bit as capable as kids across the county, they just need opportunity.
And that’s where chess comes in…determination, commitment, learning to win and learning from losing, it’s a great game that teaches life-long skills. And, it's accessible to all. As you know most opportunity in Marin is fee based, which can be a challenge for many in our Novato community. Our programs are open to all, without fees, supported by donors and operated by passionate volunteers. Our hope is that engagement with chess, or any other opportunity like cross country, basketball, or our Summer Programs, will teach kids at Hamilton that effort and engagement is the secret sauce…and then, show up to class able to engage, leading to achievement.
Competitive Chess, in particular, is the pay-off for our chess program. Kids can learn a lot from playing and learning chess, but they learn far more when they play competitively