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Parents Line Up To Get Students Into Pioneer Academy’s Chess Program

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A game of strategy that helps set the stage for success at a Queens elementary school has parents lining up to enroll their kids.

As CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock reported, 20 students filed into the library at P.S. 307 in Queens, grabbed their games and set up their boards for Pioneer Academy’s chess team practice.

Isaac Ramon is one of the youngest players at just 7 years old.

“(Can you beat everybody here?) No, just that girl and this boy,” he said. (What do you like about chess?) It’s fun and educating.”

They may be small in stature, but the team is mighty when it comes to match play. They recently placed second in the nationals — in part because of Dayra Morocho. Students call her Dayra the tiger.

“I wait until my opponent makes a mistake and then I pounce,” she said.

The reward for her swift win? Playing their coach, Christian Whitted.

Whitted is a master strength player who said chess gives the kids an opportunity to develop the critical life skills they’ll need as adults.

“They have to strategize, they have to set a goal, they have to find a way to meet that goal, they have to adapt to the changing circumstances,” he said.

“It’s not only just moving pieces,” Dayra said.

All of the students between first and fifth grade at the school learn the game. It’s part of the curriculum.

“It provides them with the opportunity to develop their critical thinking and logical reasoning skills,” said principal Cecilia Jackson.

P.S. 307 now has one of the longest kindergarten waiting lists in the city, Murdock reported.

“In our community, it’s very rare to see this type of program in place,” said Maria Caraballo,  parent coordinator for Pioneer Academy.

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