Friday, August 5, 2011

Letter from Mike Zacate

Mike will receive a lifetime achievement award from the U.S. Chess Federation in Orlando this weekend.  Unfortunately, he won't be there, as his wife Betty is recovering from a broken leg.  As is typical for Mike, he's more interested in the future than in personal honors.  Here's a letter he wrote this week.
USCF Scholastic Chess Committee and interested scholastic chess individuals:

There is a plan under discussion between the Illinois Chess Association (ICA) and the Chicago Public Schools. This plan has been in development for several years and progress followed by, and contributed to, by officers of the ICA and members of the Illinois scholastic chess community. Scholastic chess in Illinois has been on a rise in Illinois for a number of years thanks to individuals whose volunteer efforts do not end as their children age, high school programs, and several companies providing chess instruction for pay. As a result, scholastic chess in Illinois has developed on a sustained basis in areas such as Rockford, Bloomington-Peoria area, northern Chicago suburbs, western Chicago suburbs, and, to a lesser extent, the southern Chicago suburbs (eastern Chicago is Lake Michigan). Thanks to some companies and the efforts of a few individuals in Chicago elementary and high schools there is some scholastic chess active in Chicago. Thanks to the companies (I know of three) chess at the elementary level has been on the rise even while chess at the secondary level has been waning. The recent growth of elementary chess in Chicago shows the potential for exponential growth if only a structure capable of managing it and (most important) providing a sufficient number of individuals to instruct and sponsor the students existed. The Chicago Public School system has such resources to enable the scale of growth other parts of the state have had.  

The proposal being shown to the USCF that the ICA is developing with Chicago officials will provide the chess expertise to an interested bureaucracy to develop scholastic chess in Chicago to an unprecedented level. The ICA has offered to provide an instructional foundation that can sustain itself. As part of the plan, the ICA will help raise the funds needed for the initial training that will jump start the program. Once operational the program can become self sustaining within the Chicago system. Part of the beauty of the program is that it does not replace existing individual or company endeavors. Rather the ICA/Chicago plan will not only supplement and complement it, but will make much more in demand for the services of existing companies.

Developed through the input of numerous, highly experienced scholastic organizers, the plan has been endorsed (and/or sponsored) by Illinois’ top rated players, many of the private [z]one chess providers operating in Chicago, the Illinois Elementary School Association, the Illinois Chess Coaches Association, the Chicago Public Schools’ Chess Association, the U.S. Chess Trust, and the Youth Chess Foundation of Chess. Not developed in a vacuum, the plan is based on the successful programs in Philadelphia, New York, and other cities tailored to fit Chicago. The potential for gain to chess and to the USCF commands that the USCF support the plan with input and endorsement.

Yours in chess,

Michael E. Zacate

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