In the summer of 2015, I had an idea. I proudly brought out my mother’s large, dusty, white canvas and excitedly wrote down (as organized as I possibly could) what my many thoughts had to say. This idea, laughed upon (I guess I should say sarcastically encouraged) at the time, is why I am here today. I can’t tell you the many hours I spent in my room re-writing list after list of tasks I didn’t have time to accomplish or the endless times I procrastinated writing this piece because it is hard to describe something so personal, but here I am. In the summer of 2017, I decided to fully dedicate myself to making this idea even grander.
The Queen’s Gambit Chess Institute is a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit organization dedicated to ensure that every child has the necessary tools and opportunities to learn chess through a 21st-century approach to studying the game. In simple words, QGCI is making chess an active activity in the city. In reality, our goal is to promote the many benefits of chess and use it as an academic and social movement. The endless hours I spent writing, redrafting, designing, and creating this chess universe isn’t what I want to talk about today. I don’t want to talk about being a young CEO or the levels of professionalism and dedication my colleagues so often note. I want to take a few moments to discuss how I envision the future.
Chess is a portable classroom. In academia, it teaches STEAM-related subjects as well as english and history. For specific data relating to these points, I encourage you to look out for our QGCI Playbook coming out early 2018. While many know the basic benefits of chess, I meet individuals who wish to learn chess but say “I’m too dumb for that,” “I don’t have the patience,” or, most commonly, “I’ll leave that for the smart people.” I say chess is a classroom because it is a learning process. If I walked into every classroom deciding not to learn because I thought I couldn’t, what would be the purpose? We all are lifelong learners, and every time I teach I learn something new about the game. This is why we have received support from so many educational establishments such as Remake Learning, Pittsburgh Public Schools, Pittsburgh Board of Education, and so forth.
Chess is also a social movement. Yesterday, I read through our strategic plans for the coming year, and I’m going to take a few moments to tell you what some of those plans are: Visual change via pittsburgh chess board series, community chess sets, public art; youth and mentoring opportunities through staffing, Alliance of Pittsburgh School Chess, volunteers, interns, advisory teams, and chess facilitators; collaborations with Pittsburgh Police Chess, the Mentoring Partnership, colleges, and Pittsburgh City Government. Those were just a few. Pittsburgh City Government has been very good to me. In early July, I walked into a meeting with Erika Strassburger, Chief of Staff in District 8, and the amount of mutual respect, interest, and engagement made me realize how proud I am to be from Pittsburgh. Working with the government has opened so many doors, and if teaching life skills, leadership, and goal setting don’t prove this, establishing gender and racial equality, neighborhood educational funding, and community affair partners seals the deal in my opinion.
I would like to thank Councilmember Dan Gilman for officially making the first week of October Chess Week in Pittsburgh. QGCI thanks all of our partners and 9 district members for spreading the message of chess and incorporating it into your already-existing organizations. Thank you. Right now, I may be the only one who realizes how important this is for the city, but I believe this will change in the next year. I view chess as a changemaker. And if my dedication, passion, and commitment to this game aren’t already noticeable from this speech, I will end by officially announcing Chess Week 2017 in the City of Pittsburgh, and stating, chess connects with everything. It is a new way of seeing, approaching, and taking hold of the world. This all started in the summer of 2015 when I had an idea.