Los Angeles Chess Master Receives Award For Helping Youth

Chess master Damen Fletcher expands his enrichment program Train of Thought (TOT) into 24 inner-city schools and community organizations in 2012, culminating with a UCLA case study examining the effects of chess enrichment on social interactions. In addition, Fletcher was just announced as one of the recipients of the 2012 Los Angeles Urban League Young Professionals (LAULYP) ‘Divine 9’ Award for outstanding community service.

With the humble ambition in 2006 to teach children in the inner city the game of chess, Fletcher could not have anticipated that in less than six years, he would touch lives of thousands of underserved children.

Currently, Train of Thought services more than 500 students in 24 organizations in the Greater Los Angeles area, the bulk of which are educational institutions and counseling programs. Through chess, Fletcher aids students in developing stronger critical thinking skills, making his students better test takers and more focused academic performers.

In addition to academic prowess, Fletcher has noticed how chess operates as a social catalyst between players. “I have a father and son who take my class as a part of a behavioral therapy program,” says Fletcher. “The counselors were in awe watching them play and talk because in therapy sessions and at home, the father and son did not speak to one another. This came as a surprise to me, since they communicated constantly during chess games.”

Due to the academic gains in TOT participants, Fletcher is the recipient of a UCLA research grant to study the effects of chess players in children with behavioral challenges and struggles with substance abuse.

The study will conduct a randomized controlled pilot-test of the Train of Thought Chess Club program developed by NCADD/South Bay. 300 participants (ages 12 to 17) referred to NCADD/South Bay for family preservation services will be randomly selected for this study. 150 of the participants will receive standard services from NCADD/South Bay.  The remaining 150 will receive identical services, plus a Train of Thought 10-week, 10-session intensive chess club enrichment led by experienced staff aimed at teaching personal discipline and logical problem-solving skills.