Students use chess to help them learn skills needed for success
If life is a game, two Young girls are on their way to success.
Meet Dyhemia and Vanita Young. Although not related, and besides their last names, the two have more in common than one may think.
Both are charter school students; both have been involved with child services and both are skilled in the game of chess.
“I’ve been playing chess since I was in sixth grade, so probably 12 years old,” Vanita said. “I used to just move the pieces, but one day it clicked and all started making sense.”
The 17-year-old from Philadelphia is in Lubbock this week attending the Texas Tech Susan Polgar Girls Invitational. The top-rated girl from each state is invited to Texas Tech for three days of intensive training and three days of tournament play. Special invitations were also sent to a select group of girls, including Dyhemia.
Opening ceremonies for the eighth annual tournament begin today at 9:30 a.m. Players’ ages range from 5-18 years old.
Vanita is calm, but smiles when her logical skill level is discussed.
“I hope I’m going to win.”
Dyhemia cannot be ignored when she enters a room. Sixteen years old, hair loosely pulled back in a ponytail, the California teen said she is ready to play.
“I look at my life as a chess game,” Dyhemia said. “I need my pieces - my family - to be protected.”
Currently residing in a group home in San Francisco, Dyhemia said her journey to Lubbock was not a normal one.
In a news release sent to local media, it was revealed the help of a missing persons unit was needed to track down Dyhemia for an invitation to be received at all.
“I was just in between homes at the time,” she said. “I am stunned people went to the trouble they did to get me here.”
Dyhemia said Jada Pinkett-Smith’s agent sent her group home’s leader a text explaining an interest on behalf of the celebrity to assist in the trip for Dyhemia financially.
U.S. Sen. Bob Brady of Pennsylvania acted in a similar way offering to send Vanita to the invitational inspired by the aspiring Texas Tech student’s story.
“Scholarships are handed out to the winners of the tournament and I would love to come to Tech one day,” Vanita said. “It’s warm here and people are very friendly.”
Vanita and Dyhemia are both without their biological parents. Dyhemia lives with about 20 other girls in the San Francisco area and Vanita lives with her grandfather in Philadelphia.
Maintaining eye contact and a straight face, as if she had practiced, Vanita said the situation with her parents is something she still thinks about on a daily basis.
“My mom abandoned me and my dad when I was 2 and he died when I was 13,” Vanita said. “I play chess, and I don’t have to think about what’s going on in my personal life.”
Dyhemia smiles and makes large motions with her hands as if they were an outlet for her enthusiasm, explaining her personal situation. She gives little detail, rather a conclusion of sorts for what she said sums up her life.
“I put my trust in very few people and just keep my focus on my goal,” Dyhemia said. “People aren’t always going to like where you’re going, but you do what’s best for you and today that’s chess for me.”
She falls silent as she points to a bruised eye on her otherwise glowing face.
“And only a few days before I was coming to play chess,” she said. “Not even a black eye is going to keep me from winning.”
Paul Truong, the public relations and marketing coordinator for the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence, said he was impressed with the girls’ dedication and spirit throughout the past days of training.
“I came to the United States from Saigon with no money and what seemed like too many obstacles to overcome,” Truong said. “Chess helped me get to where I am today and by hosting these tournaments, we’re giving girls like the ones here the same chance.”
Today, he is an assistant coach to the No. 1 nationally ranked Knight Raiders, fresh off a title win in April.
“Like our team, these girls are good kids,” Truong said. “Chess players aren’t your typical athlete-mold and they aren’t majoring in basket weaving 101. Again, like our team, we are selective who comes to the invitational because we know what we’re looking for- logic, higher analytical thinking and perseverance.”
Vanita said she maintains A’s and B’s in her schoolwork load at Walter D. Palmer Charter School on the East Coast. She said her favorite classes are math and science.
“I’m not so great at the writing stuff,” Vanita said looking over the brim of her thin-framed glasses.
Dyhemia took a proud moment when she said she has a passion for athletics, including track and boxing.
“I guess it’s good to be well rounded,” Dyhemia, a chess player since fifth grade, said. “Smart and athletic is a combo you can’t beat.”
Both said this was their first trip to Lubbock and first time at the invitational.
Truong said all of the girls at the invitational are of a special nature and should be proud of their talents.
“It’s not a matter of if anyone is worthless at playing chess,” Truong said. “It’s the chance that they’re getting an opportunity they might not otherwise have.”Source: Avalanche Journal