We’re pleased to announce that one of our Chess to Life Instructors is one of ten finalists for the 2022 Charity Village Award for Best Contribution to Youth Engagement.
Christopher Charles is one of those unique souls you only come across once in awhile—largely due to his special gift for engagement.
He’s the sort of person who simply makes us all better.
He has remained steadfastly committed to our organization through many hardships and significant change. In addition to the impact of the pandemic, we lost our founder, who had charismatically guided our organization for more than 20 years, creating immense impact for children through life skills-based chess education.
Among Chris’ contributions, the one that stands out most recently is his work with the Africentric Alternative School in Toronto. Unprompted, Chris modified our general curriculum to become one that is rooted in Black history—resulting in a much deeper student connection to the materials. His creativity and initiative prompted a truly inclusive experience, where all involved were able to see themselves in the curriculum in ways they could not before.
In an eight-week course that teaches elements of the game from checkmate to castling and the importance of the centre, along with life skills like cooperation and resilience, Chris included a topic from Black history or a famous player from the African diaspora each week from chess problem composer Theophilus Thompson to American grandmaster Maurice Ashley.
Chris noted the excitement around his time at the school, and the constant inquiries around when he would be coming back. He managed to make chess mean something completely different to this group of students, in a way I suspect they will carry forward with them into the world.
We have all learned from Chris, and we now better understand the power of personalization and the pathways that create it. We are also more acutely aware of the influence of our work, and the differences we can make—especially during challenging times.
But best of all, the children of the Africentric School now know their place in history in a way they may not have otherwise, because the world doesn’t usually present the game of chess in a way that includes young people of colour.
Looking ahead, we will take Chris’ way of looking at curriculum and generate modules that will better serve other marginalized communities.