Chess conference at UGA promotes art, entrepreneurship

Nearly 270 students, parents and community leaders gathered at the UGA Tate Student Center for the Chess and Community Conference Saturday.

The conference centered around a chess competition, but in its third year broadened its goals. This year, organizers encouraged students to address the issue of poverty in the Athens community and make a difference through their own success.

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The event opened with a speech by Ryan Moore, the Director of the Economic Development Department for Athens-Clarke County. Moore encouraged students to be active in their community and combat poverty in Athens via their own achievement.

“When you talk about eliminating poverty in the Athens area, it starts here,” he said. “…I encourage each and every one of you to look around you, look at the people who are successful in your community, figure out ways to associate yourselves with those people, and share in their success so that they can share in yours.”

Keynote speaker Fenwick Broyard, Executive Director of Community Connection of Northeast Georgia, spoke on the merits of entrepreneurship, calling upon students to pursue their goals relentlessly and to “live boldly.”

During the conference, four scholarships were presented to local high school students. Elizabeth Tate, Xavier Arnold and Fajr Malika Delane received the R.E.A.C.H. Athens Scholarship Award for essays addressing poverty in Athens and solutions for the issue. Gedia Kedar Powell received the Fenwick Broyard Scholarship Award for his essay on the same subject.

The conference also recognized student winners of the Real Ledge Middle School Entrepreneurial Challenge. Car’niyah Dunn, a Hilsman Middle School student, Kyala Conner, also of Hilsman, and Jenni Vilchis of Coile Middle School each got $500 to start their enterprises after submitting business ideas to Real Ledge. Their plans included a sewing business, an activity center for foster children and a fashion company, respectively.

After the honors came the part most in the crowd were waiting for — the chess tournament. The competition was divided at the elementary, middle and high school levels, and consisted of six rounds lasting around 30 minutes each. The winner of each game received a point for the team, and the team with the most points at the end winning the overall prize.

This year’s conference featured an art gallery displaying work of local middle and high school students. Judges from the Athens Area Art Council evaluated the artwork and gave a number of awards.

Winners of both events were not available as of press time.

Though there were winners and losers, the Chess and Community Conference was about more than the final scores. Crystal Slatin, a 10th-grader and member of the chess team Triple Threat, said the event was about having fun and supporting the Athens community.

“Even if we don’t win the cash prize, I’ll still walk out of here with the same smile on my face,” she said.

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