Creating opportunities for interaction with typical peers is one of the areas where Y.A.L.E. School is on the forefront of private special education. So it was not unusual for the students in Y.A.L.E. School Cherry Hill’s Chess Club to sit down with three varsity chess team members from Cherry Hill West High School over several afternoons in April for some competitive and educational matches.
The three students from Cherry Hill West are all advanced chess players, and it was team member Brandon Kueny who originally proposed the idea of mentoring the Y.A.L.E. club to his mother, Y.A.L.E. staff member Jennifer Hicks. The young chess players from the Y.A.L.E. School team range in age and experience from beginners to experts in the game of strategy and tactics.
Y.A.L.E. Cherry Hill junior Jared Groder is a nationally-ranked chess player
At one session, the novice Y.A.L.E. students were grouped with one of the public school students, who taught them basic chess rules and moves. The other two Cherry Hill West experts competed in mock chess matches against the more advanced Y.A.L.E. School club members, advising them on how to make stronger opening and closing moves.
“One of the most exciting matches paired two Y.A.L.E. students against each other with the Cherry Hill West players coaching them from the sidelines,” said Hicks, who also serves as staff advisor for the Y.A.L.E. club.
“It was fun for all the kids involved and it was so nice to see them teaching and learning from each other in such a supportive way,” she added.
Hicks and Kueny are veterans of bringing together disabled students with their typical peers. Kueny played on the New Jersey Special Olympics unified softball team at last year’s Special Olympics 2014 USA Games in Princeton, along with several athletes from Y.A.L.E. School.
Y.A.L.E. School’s interest-based social skills clubs offer our students an array of enjoyable and cooperative activities to choose from, all of which foster positive social interactions. The members of the Chess Club might improve their moves on the checkered board, but they also increase critical thinking, teamwork and sportsmanship. That’s a winning game plan for life in school and beyond!