Partners play a significant role in the Baltimore Curriculum Project’s (BCP) ability to meet our mission and the missions of our six neighborhood conversion charter schools. Each partner, especially our overarching partner, Baltimore City Public Schools, is integral to the success of the BCP family of students, faculty/staff, and parents. This month, we celebrate the Board Room Chess and its more than five-year partnership with BCP schools, including Govans Elementary, Wolfe Street Academy and Frederick Elementary/Middle.

Who is the Board Room Chess?

In existence since 2018, the Board Room Chess works to narrow achievement gaps in education in underserved Baltimore communities through the game of chess. The program provides virtual and safe spaces to gather socially and intellectually while using chess as a way for the kids to push, plan ahead, and make smart moves in life.

The program began after, as a business owner who hosted chess tournaments, founding director and CEO Kim Hicks, noticed a lack of Baltimore City representation in the tournaments. “There were many youths in Baltimore interested in chess,” Hicks says, “however the availability of consistent instruction was scarce or nonexistent.” Many students had been introduced to chess, only to see the program disappear the next year.

Hicks’ favorite part is working with youth of all ages and seeing potential in each one. “Many have be

en labeled,” she says, “many have been traumatized, and many have responsibilities beyond that which a child should have. Yet, they are all deserving of the same opportunities.”

Then there are those, she says, “who are confident, sure and motivated, who need the support of adults, mentors, and instructors to help them to continue to stay on the path to success. When you get the opportunity to sit across the [chess] board, you develop trust and have conversations about life through storytelling, it can give you a new perspective on things.”

The Board Room Chess has nine coaches working with Baltimore City schools; when she’s needed, Ms. Hicks also coaches. Coaches are mainly retired professionals, and include William Morrison, an internationally ranked Chess Master, who not only coaches but instructs the Board Room Chess coaches. And, to expand the number of coaches, in 2023, they began developing junior coaches with high school students.

No capitalizing “the” in “the Board Room Chess”

Hicks explained that the “t” is always lower case. “The” she says, “is insignificant. We do that to remind ourselves of how so many of our youth feel and that is one of our main reasons for teaching life skills through the game of chess.”

the Board Room Chess and Govans Elementary

Board Room Chess BCP Partnerships include Frederick Elementary/Middle School, Wolfe Street Academy and Govans Elementary School.  The organization has worked with Govans since 2022. The partnership, according to Mary Young, Govans’ Out of School Time Programming Director for the Dragons After Dismissal program, provides a great opportunity for our students to learn the game of chess and compete in different chess competitions during the school year.”  

Each BCP school has its own Board Room Chess coach. Jamal Davi, Govans’ coach, has been with the Board Room Chess for three years and with Govans for two. But he’s been a chess coach in Baltimore for more than eight years.

“We have a wonderful collection of coaches,” Mr. Davis says. “I love the idea of the program, teaching the similarities [of chess] to life, and sharing this game to as many students as possible.

“Coach Davis is a great chess coach and male mentor to our students,” Young says. In addition to chess, “he often helps us with other after school events such as our Black History Month celebration and Math and Literacy Night.”

Ms. Young says that chess at Govans has grown to be one of their most popular enrichment programs, especially among their male students. The program meets at Govans twice a week, with two separate groups of third, fourth, and fifth grade students. And, due to their students’ increasing interest in chess, Govans now works with the Bryn Mawr School. Two high school students volunteer every week with Govans first and second graders, preparing them to join the Board Room Chess in the future.  

Board Room Chess excitement touches many BCP schools

In May 2023, Wolfe Street Academy’s (WSA) Chess Club, the Wolfe Street Wolves, won first place at the invitational chess meet sponsored by the Board Room Chess. The three BCP schools competing “swept the board” in the elementary/middle category:  WSA in first place, Frederick Elementary/Middle in second place and Govans Dragons in third. Read more.

The future of chess in Baltimore City

“We encourage our youth to continue to play into high school,” Hicks says. However, she says, many high schools in underserved communities don’t offer chess. To counter that, Board Room Chess offers a summer program that always includes chess.

“We would love to see chess in all Baltimore City Schools,” Hicks says. “If we weren’t currently at our coaching capacity, we would be knocking on doors looking for additional opportunities.” 

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About the Baltimore Curriculum Project

Baltimore Curriculum Project (BCP) is the largest operator of local neighborhood, public charter schools in Maryland. We create safe, supportive learning environments for children PK-8 by providing innovative, research-based educational strategies, intensive teacher training and extensive support for administration and staff. We support our local neighborhood needs by tailoring our resources and support through community partnerships.

As one of the longest-running charter operators in Maryland, our schools are regularly recognized as some of the most highly acclaimed neighborhood charter schools in the state. 

Pimlico Elementary / Middle School

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