WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) â€” Quiet talk of kings and queens; rooks and rules fills the school library on most early mornings at Virgo Middle School. Most days around 7:50 a.m., about 14 students can be found bent over glass chess boards or looking at computer chess boards contemplating their next moves.
The Virgo Chess Club began this year, the fruit of one student’s labor 13-year-old chess enthusiast Donte Green. He asked the school’s administration if he could start the club to give students something to do between the time they get dropped off at school and gather in the gym and when the bell rings at 8:30 a.m.
Donte hoped it would stop some of the student fights in the mornings.
“Before, we were having lots of skirmishes downstairs and this helps,” said Karen Sherman, Virgo’s school librarian. “It starts their day off with a certain calm. They’re not stirred up by what someone else has said.”
For Donte, his initiative was about preparing himself and others to possibly play chess when he goes to high school.
“It’s mainly strategy and focusing,” he said of the game’s strengths, “because without focusing and paying attention to what you’re doing, somebody’s going to take your king or queen in a heartbeat.”
The Chess Club had its first tournament right before Thanksgiving, and club member Antonio Rogers won.
“It was pretty fun because it’s nice to see that friend against friend going against each other in a friendly competition in a battle of wits,” Donte said.
Now, the school’s administration gives Donte the credit for other sounds in the morning that of ropes slapping the pavement and drummers drumming as three other early morning clubs, a drumline, web design and double dutch jump rope clubs, have started. Don Cummings, Virgo’s principal, said about 30 students are now involved in early morning clubs.
“It’s beautiful because they come to school, get their breakfast and go straight to chess or other clubs,” he said.
Watching over the chess action and settling rule calls is Dorian Suggs, a grandparent volunteer. Suggs and the school provided the chess boards for students to play.
“It’s really wonderful that as a student, Donte can take an idea and bring it to the faculty and staff and that he had the tenacity to get it done is to be commended,” he added. “I do this because I have a passion for seeing children do well. When you invest in a child, you perpetuate greatness in society because they are our future.”