Local grants make an impact


Hillsboro High School students in the Wiebe Media Center watch James Letterman (right) make a chess move against Justin King during a match before the start of classes Friday. With a strong chess guild, matches are a ritual before school and during the lunch period.

Awarding a foundation grant to a high school club may sound like a nice thing to do, but does the money really make a difference?

Testimonials from members of the Hillsboro High School Chess Guild testify that it does. The guild has received grants of $500 in each of the first two years the Hillsboro Community Founda?tion has awarded them through Impact Fund earnings.

Application season for the third round of grants began Sept. 15 and will continue through Nov. 14. The grants will be issued in January.

The HHS Chess Guild used its first grant in 2008 to provide free chess lessons by a certified coach and to subsidize other individual expenses.

?The grant monies have provided chess instruction and tourney entry fees for our guild members so that all who would like to learn and play the invaluable game of chess have the opportunity to do so without financial obligation,? said Janet Whisenhunt, guild sponsor.

The direct impact is that becoming more competent makes the game more fun. More than that, it makes it more attractive for students to participate in the guild as a social outlet.

?Getting to go to different places and meet a whole bunch of different people has been great,? said sophomore Marshall Hoffner, who has been a member of the guild the past two years. ?Also, you see their knowledge of how they move their pieces and what they actually do in chess.?

Daniel Montigny, now a senior, joined the guild last year.

?I had played chess a few times before I joined (the guild),? he said. ?But I?ve learned a lot more, and now we can meet new people, get to know them and become friends with them.?

James Letterman echoes that experience.

?I personally enjoy (the guild) for the simple fact that I?ve made quite a few friends that I probably wouldn?t normally have, due to this,? he said. ?I know a lot of different people that I talk to every so often.

?I really do like competing against other kids, and see which ones will do better.?

Senior Michael Christian, the team?s No. 1 player, said being part of the guild has improved his social comfort level.

?When I first got into the chess guild, I was very nonsocial,? he admitted. ?That?s something good about being part of something that interests so many people.

?I can almost guarantee that anyone who joins something like the chess guild can?t be anti-social?even if you try to be.?

Beyond the social advantages, several players mentioned how chess has improved their confidence and performance in the classroom.

?It?s helped me thinking through things logically in real life,? Richert said. ?I?ve risen a lot (in chess ability). Before, if I were to play somebody that was a lot better me, I would have gotten crushed. But now I can actually give them a pretty good fight, and possibly even win against them.?

Christian said he has noticed the difference in his own performance at school.

?Chess, more than people know, increases your focus on what you?re doing,? he said. ?You have to open your mind to different possibilities.

?The more successful I?ve been at chess, the more successful I?ve been in school. I?m not a terrible writer, but the organization of it is hard. But the more I?ve discovered ways to get around in situations (because of chess), the more I?ve been able to think about what I need to write or how I need to organize it.?

This past January, the guild received its second $500 grant, and used the money to help purchase a MonRoi PCM, an increasingly popular chess tool authorized by the U.S. Chess Federation.

?The MonRoi PCM allows players to digitally notate moves during tournament play, analyze and save games to their new school-issued laptop,? Whisen?hunt said.

The device will be especially useful for a visually impaired player, allowing him or her to notate games easily instead of handwriting each player?s move, which is required in tournament play.

?Without the grant, this new technology for the team would not be feasible,? Whisenhunt said.

Enhancing the chess guild on both a competitive and social level has made it an attractive outlet for students who may not be interested in the more traditional extracurricular venues at HHS such as athletics and music.

?For me, it?s just been a good way for me to get active,? Hoffner said. ?Most Saturdays I just spend time at home and do pretty much nothing.

?If you want to really meet new people and get active, you should probably join a club, or this club, because it doesn?t take that much of your time.?

Grants from the Hillsboro Area Impact Fund will be used for charitable purposes as determined by the Hillsboro Community Foundation.

Applications can be downloaded from the city?s Web site (cityofhillsboro.net) or from the Free Press Web site (hillsborofreepress.com). They can also be picked up from Jayson Hanscho at American Family Insurance, 104 E. First.

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