Chess & Decision-Making Program for At-Risk Youth

According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, “Because adolescents’ brains are not fully matured, their decision-making and thought processes differ from those of adults…. It is developmentally normative for adolescents to take greater risks and show greater susceptibility to peer influences than adults. These otherwise normal differences can contribute to behaviors that lead to involvement with the juvenile justice system.”

Every year, juvenile courts in the Unites States handle an estimated 1.7 million cases of juvenile delinquency. On any given day, more than 70,000 juvenile offenders are not living in their homes but rather being held in juvenile detention and correction centers.

At-risk youth are generally reluctant to talk about their difficulties and share feelings. But when they are playing chess, a rapport is established in a friendly and non-threatening way. We work with at-risk juvenile youths in county detention centers to help them correct the trajectory of their lives through challenging and positive chess alternative programs. They learn the consequences of bad moves and the importance of structured rules and behavior over impulsive and undisciplined actions from the game.

We transform their critical thinking, impact their cognitive behavior, and teach them the life skills of thinking ahead, planning, and most of all decision-making. They learn that when somebody challenges them, instead of reacting immediately and fighting them back, it might be best to think before they move, focus on their goal and moving away from trouble.