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A school's savored word: Checkmate!

The kids of farmworkers and laborers beat chess teams from wealthy schools.

By SAUNDRA AMRHEIN, Times Staff Writer
Published November 30, 2007


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WIMAUMA 

Some children had only a few chess lessons. Others just returned with their parents from northern fields.

The three dozen students in the new Wimauma Elementary School chess club, children of laborers and farmworkers, faced off against wealthy schools with personal coaches at a recent tournament. They brought back three trophies.

The kindergarten and first-grade team won first place. The second- and third-graders finished fourth out of 16 teams. The fourth- and fifth-graders took third place out of 17 teams.

The tournament was held in Tampa over three Sundays in late October and early November.

"The parents saw something in their kids they haven't seen before but knew they were capable of," said principal Roy Moral.

"I think with the extreme poverty and with their parents working so many hours, our kids don't have the opportunities other students do.

"It feels good to provide them with an opportunity to teach them that you can do a lot with your mind."

The tournament was the first for most team members, who joined at the start of this school year or when they returned a few weeks ago with their parents, after harvesting crops up north.

Moral started the team at the end of last school year with just a few students and teachers who volunteered their free time.

He's already on the road to copying the success he found at his last school, Palm River Elementary. There he guided a team of 40 children in a poor neighborhood without chess coaches and wealthy sponsors to the championship of the West Florida regional tournament, second place in the state tournament and a 14th-place finish at the national championship. Moral paid the $2,500 for tournament fees, transportation and meals for the Palm River team himself.

At Wimauma Elementary, the Redlands Christian Migrant Association is providing transportation for the migrant students - about half of the team - and gave out handheld computer chess games this summer.

The Community Foundation of Greater Sun City Center helped with the entry fees.

Despite their tough backgrounds, the children are determined to win, Moral said. "They were thrilled with what they were able to accomplish," he said.

Saundra Amrhein can be reached at amrhein@sptimes.com or 661-2441.

[Last modified November 29, 2007, 07:26:26]


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