A group of underserved elementary students was honored by City Councilman Michael Knox after topping 20 other schools at the 2017 North/Central Texas Scholastic Chess Championship in March. Two students received awards at the tournament for their wins, including a second grader who surpassed 61 students to win the overall elementary division.

The students from Zoe Learning Academy, an inner-city charter school in Houston, were honored by Knox for their victories. Knox presented a certificate of appreciation to second grader Isaiah Johnson, who won first place in the elementary division of more than 60 players ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade. Darren Nixon, a fourth grader, also received recognition for his top-10 finish.

Overall, the team finished first in the elementary division and second in the novice division, and took home a total of five trophies.

“The game of chess challenges their ability to analyze, evaluate and create,” said Richard Burton, the team’s faculty sponsor. “These are critical thinking and problem-solving skills they will utilize throughout life.”

Zoe Academy is an inner-city charter school near downtown Houston. Many of the school’s students hail from underserved communities. Chess provides an important outlet for some of these students, Burton said.

Zoe Academy’s chess team is no stranger to competition. The team has participated in numerous tournaments sponsored by the United States Chess Federation and the Houston Chess Association for several years, and has successfully won local and regional tournaments.

“I am more compelled than ever to see the maturation of our kids academically and psychologically,” Burton said, “because of the daily challenges they face.”

Burton said the chess players, who range from first through fifth grade, are excited about winning the tournament and look forward to playing in upcoming tournaments and attending Summer Chess Camp at Zoe Academy.

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