South Seattle chess program teaches kids valuable life lessons

SEATTLE - Sports can be an easy way to teach kids life lessons - but a popular local program isn't on the football or soccer field.

Instead, a chess tournament in South Seattle is teaching kids valuable moves in the game of life.

With a sweet smile, Seattle police officer Denise Bouldin - known as Detective Cookie - keeps kids focused on kings and queens, even though the game of chess can be nerve-wracking for the youngsters.

"I actually see some people praying," she says.

This week, 180 fifth-graders competed in her youth chess club tournament for bragging rights and a trophy taller than most competitors.

"You get to play other people, and you don't know their strategies and it's a little challenging - so it's exciting and fun," says one fifth-grader, Cameren Brown.

The game is meant to help kids in the South Rainer Valley battle challenges that are not as black and white as the chess pieces they are learning to maneuver. The community has seen murders, gang violence and drugs.

Students learn that every move and every choice has a consequence.

"You can lose your king. In real life, you can lose your life," says Bouldin.

She started the program with grant money and about 16 players. Soon, they were lining up before meets.

"I had to put chess boards on the ground on the floor for them to play, it was such a success," she says. "It's like a sport for your mind."

While one team walks away with the trophy, everyone goes home with ways to keep moving forward.
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