By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) –Kids from an elementary school chess team in Southwest Philadelphia are packing their bags tonight, thanks to community support, headed to Texas tomorrow to compete in a national championship chess tournament.
With two glass cases filled to the brim with trophies, the “Minor Threats” chess team at Mitchell Elementary School, on Kingsessing Avenue, is proving to be a big threat to kids across the country.
“Nationally speaking, they’re better than average,” says Jason Bui, the third-grade teacher who started the chess club four years ago.
Today, the group has a roster of roughly 30 kids. The group participates in local chess matches and out-of-state tournaments. They’ve traveled to New York, DC, Atlanta, and now they’re flying to Texas.
“I think for all but one of the kids, it’s their first time flying,” says Bui about their trip to the Elementary National Chess Tournament in Dallas. “It’s a three-day tournament — they’ll compete Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.”
The travel expenses, entry fees, lodging, and more have been paid for by donations from the community.
“A lot of the families can’t afford the full price of sending the kids to the tournament,” says Bui. “Some of the entry fees alone can be $50. We’ve been very lucky that people have given us money to help us.”
And the kids are ready.
“I’m kind of nervous, but my mom says she’s been praying for me and my pastor prayed,” says Tahvon Hughes, 11, one of the six kids who will be competing this weekend. He started playing chess in second grade and is now team captain.
“It feels very good to win,” he says, “but when I lose I even feel better — because I’ll work to get better.”
“I’ve never been nowhere far away from home,” admits ten-year-old Syair Hutson. “I’m scared, but I am willing to take risks and go through it.”
“I like chess because it allows me to think and focus a lot,” he adds.
The Minor Threats Chess Team brought home 11 trophies at the state tournament in March, and they’re hoping to do even better this weekend.
To support the Minor Threats Chess Team, donate at www.gofundme.com/506jqo.