This story is part of a bi-weekly series that celebrates people who are reaching across a divide to "build bridges" with those different from themselves. The Sparkt Bridges series is made possible with the support of UPMC.
When 19-year old Ashley Priore was a girl and first becoming passionate about chess, she noticed something: when she went to tournaments, there weren't many girls and almost no people of color playing. She thought that was wrong, and that someone should do something about it.
Turns out that someone was her. From her belief that everyone should have a chance to learn and play chess grew a non-profit, The Queen's Gambit. Now Ashley and her volunteers are teaching kids from every community to love the game like they do, as we saw when we visited a class at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood.
Ashley's organization has already grown to 400+ students, 50 community partners, and a dedicated group of volunteers who teach with her at locations around the city. She views The Queen's Gambit as teaching more than just a game, but also a tool to teach critical thinking. "I think we haven't been taught enough in school to think critically about situations, to not look at a problem and think there's only one solution," just like a chess game, said Ashley.
She wants her students to translate the goal-setting, strategy, problem-solving and community building of chess into their personal lives. "The way we approach chess is more creative," explained Ashley. "I don't expect them to become the next Bobby Fisher but I want them to think creatively. That side of chess isn't talked about because we always talk about winning."
She has even bigger dreams: a permanent location for The Queen's Gambit to work toward her ultimate goal of making Pittsburgh a "City of Chess" (her hashtag!), "I think it's going to become more of a community game, more of an inclusive game rather than (people saying) 'oh, there are some people playing chess' and walking away," said Ashley. "It's going to bring people together. And that's been the main goal."
The Sparkt Bridges Project is produced
with the generous support of UPMC.
Life Changing Medicine.