By Steve Patterson 

WILMINGTON, Del. (CBS) — They are the kings and queens of Wilmington.

Students on the team at Thomas Edison Charter are the first National Junior High Chess Champions in Delaware.

The students won the title in 2014. This week, they aim to be the first to win back-to-back.

“Chess teaches kids to critically think, to problem solve,” said Principal Salome Thomas-El. “It’s the great equalizer.”

Thomas-EL has been sculpting hundreds of young minds with one game since the mid-90s. He started using chess as a teaching tool in Philadelphia.

In Wilmington, most of the kids he works with are minorities from poor single-family homes, in a town that often feels forgotten.

El told us, on checkered black and white boards, that means nothing.

“Ninety-plus percent of our students live at or below the poverty level,” he said. “We truly believe where you’re from, doesn’t determine where you’re going.”

The kids practice about four-to-six hours a day for four days a week. It’s discipline and structure they’ve been using not only to win tournaments, but also incorporating that in their daily lives.

Twelve-year-old Chess Champ Mark Coney says the game gives him clarity.

“Chess teaches you that you need to see all opportunities,” Coney said. “To think a couple moves ahead in life.

The team leaves this week for the championship in Louisville, Kentucky.

They’re asking for help from the public to raise enough money in order to take all 20 teammates.

If you wish to donate on the team’s “Go Fund Me Page” you can find he link here:

“These children, inside of them, have something that they know they can be successful,” El said. “As adults, we have to believe in them, until they begin to believe in themselves.”