ABOVE: In no particular order: Isaiah Johnson, Darren Nixon, Traeshaun Allen, Janae Jerome, Jyrese B. Nixon, Detrevion Jerome, Z’Ani Thompson, Ke’Chelle Patterson, Sania Phelps and Inaya Mercer with their chess team sponsor Richard Burton
Houston was very well represented at the 2017 North/Central Texas Scholastic Chess Championship, so much so, that a group of underserved elementary students were recently honored by Houston City Councilman Michael Knox after topping 20 other schools as the winners. The students from Zoe Learning Academy, a charter school located near downtown Houston, were honored by Council Member Knox for their victories.
Two students received awards at the tournament for their wins, including a second grader who surpassed 61 students to win the overall elementary division.
Knox presented a certificate of appreciation to second grader Isaiah Johnson, who won first place in the elementary division, out of more than 60 players, ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade. Darren Nixon, a fourth grader, also received recognition for his top-10 finish. Overall, the team finished first in the elementary division and second in the novice division, and took home a total of five trophies.
“Often, young people are recognized for their physical achievement through sports. I do not believe we, as a community, do enough to recognize and value the academic or cerebral accomplishment of our youth,” Council Member Knox tells the Forward Times. “The Zoe Learning Academy is the exception to that rule and rewards the academic and cerebral achievements of their students. I felt it was important that a city official recognize their effort and encourage both the Zoe Learning Academy and the individual students to continue to excel by using their minds as well as their bodies to become the best persons they can be. I expect to see many of these young chess champions leading our neighborhoods, city, and businesses in the not too distant future.”
Zoe Learning Academy was born out of a desire to educate children in our community in June of 2001, through its founder and District Superintendent, Dr. Richard S. Rose.
Zoe Learning Academy has a student body of about 225 students, many of whom live in the heart of the Yellowstone, Sunnyside and Third Ward communities. Most, if not all, of the students are considered underserved or underprivileged. Zoe Learning Academy promotes a curriculum that encourages ‘self-motivation and determination on behalf of all learners’.
As it relates to why Dr. Rose decided to start the charter school and incorporate chess, Dr. Rose states, “My wife Tawana and I understood that there was a need for a creative and innovative way to educate our children. As far as our chess team goes, one of our staff members had a passion to teach children how to play the game of chess 3 years ago, and Mr. Richard Burton has dedicated his extra time in effectively teaching these inner-city kids.”
“Chess teaches children how to analyze, evaluate and create, which also gives them the ability to use problem-solving skills, as well as critical thinking skills that can be utilize throughout life,” Dr. Rose continues. “Our instructor challenged us to allow him to teach our students, so that it would help them in concentrating in there other classes as well. It turns out that these students have not only excelled, but they have achieved greatly by winning first place in most of the tournaments they have participated in.”
Richard Burton is the chess team sponsor and a physical education instructor at Zoe Learning Academy. Burton has more than 15 years of experience sponsoring academic chess clubs, primarily in the expired North Forest Independent School District. Most recently, he led the chess team at Zoe Learning Academy to victory during its first competition at the State Chess Championship Tournament.
“Chess provides an important outlet for some of these students,” said Burton. “The game of chess challenges their ability to analyze, evaluate and create. These are critical thinking and problem-solving skills they will utilize throughout life.”
Zoe Academy’s chess team is no stranger to competition. The team has participated in numerous tournaments sponsored by the United States Chess Federation and the Houston Chess Association for several years, and has successfully won local and regional tournaments.
“Because of the daily challenges they face, I am more compelled than ever to see the maturation of our kids academically and psychologically,” said Burton.
Burton said the chess players, who range from first through fifth grade, are excited about winning the tournament and look forward to playing in upcoming tournaments and attending Summer Chess Camp at Zoe Academy.
For more information on the Zoe Learning Academy, please visit www.zoelearningcenters.com.
The Forward Times congratulates Richard Burton, and the outstanding students at Zoe Learning Academy (Isaiah Johnson, Darren Nixon, Traeshaun Allen, Janae Jerome, Jyrese B. Nixon, Detrevion Jerome, Z’Ani Thompson, Ke’Chelle Patterson, Sania Phelps and Inaya Mercer) for representing Houston so well at the 2017 North/Central Texas Scholastic Chess Championship. We wish these young champions all the best in their futures, and in all they choose to do in life.