Last night’s Character Chess Session at Wohl was probably the closest we have ever come to a perfect night with kids. We had eleven engaged adult volunteers and twenty-two energetic students. We had all the elements of success; a cool room, positive attitudes, and plenty of Snickers.
Tamiko started the evening off with a big challenge in our “ICE Breaker” exercise. All the students were asked to stand and present themselves with confidence and power. They all delivered. Rochelle Griffin deserves an award for “leaning” on all her Fellow friends to come out last night. In addition, she led our reflective reading. The students were asked to identify their closest friends; predict where they were headed in life; and decide if they wanted to follow them to that place. An interesting discussion followed. Ask a volunteer from last night to fill you in.
We have developed official roles for all of our volunteers like; attendance secretary, organizer, lead reader, tournament director, sergeant at arms and instructional coordinator. However, there are other unofficial jobs that are just as critical. Melvin and Keith have mastered the all-important job of peace keepers. Over the past few weeks, including last night, they quietly have identified potentially challenging kids and gently reminded them of the need to control their own behaviors. Most of the time, no one ever notices this is happening. That kind of respectful guidance has been essential to the success of the program.
Other volunteers like Mark Smith and Vince Fitzpatrick offer a different kind of leadership in our program. They make a conscious effort to connect with the kids in a personal way. I love to see Mark probe the minds and hearts of kids. At one minute they are playing the “Pawn Touch Down Challege” the next they are planning for college. That’s what you get with Mark. Vince’s approach is a little different. He gives everyone a platform for talking about themselves. Last night was a perfect example. Vince identified a young man who was a little detached from the group and paired up with him last night to play chess. The entire time he used the game to create a safe place for dialogue for the two of them. That’s what mentorship is really about.
Special thanks to Jackie French, Pamela Westbrooks-Hodge and Tamiko Armstead for coming out to support. We know everyone has competing interests, but stopping in, even if for only a few moments, makes a world of difference. On the other hand, somebody needs to get something special for Jamillah Boyd and FeliceSkye Hutchinson. These two ladies have put in more hours at Wohl on behave of the IFAA than anyone. Jamillah is everywhere. She may not want to lead the reading but she will sign in some kids, play some Chess, throw the Energy Ball, act out scenes from “The Smirfs” and guilt folks into coming out to Wohl. FeliceSkye, who’s not a fellow (yet), has designed and led The ACTive Reading Program, supported nearly all the Character Chess sessions, served as De’anelle’s personal therapist, shot video and cleaned up after every session. The two of these ladies have made IFAA at Wohl happen this session and they deserve our thanks and appreciation.
As we close this session, we will keep you posted on future events at Wohl. Please, stay engaged and involved. It’s a blessing for us all. Thanks to all of our volunteers. You guys are making it happen for kids.
Character Chess needs your support. We need energetic and spirited volunteers for the upcoming sessions at Wohl. The kids can’t wait to see you. We also need your financial support. I’m asking you to visit www.characterchess.org and buy 2 books, one for you and one for a child at Wohl Recreation Center. While you are there check out the pictures, videos and leave a comment.