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Brooklyn teen slated to become first female African-American chess master

Lia Grainger
Shine On
November 1, 2012

Grandma's, listen up.

There's a 17-year-old girl from Brooklyn, New York who may very soon become the first female African American chess master, and she says she was inspired by her Grandma, reports Jezebel.

Rochelle Ballantyne and her chess-playing classmates at I.S. Middle School in Brooklyn, New York are documented in the recently released (and very well-reviewed) film, Brooklyn Castle.

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Though 65 per cent of the students at the school live below the poverty line, I.S. Middle School has the highest ranking junior high chess team in the nation and has won more than 30 national championships. That success is thanks to the school's excellent chess program, which is now in jeopardy thanks to budget cuts.

Ballantyne is now a high school senior and is still playing — and winning. She'll be headed to SIovenia for the 2012 World Junior Chess Championships later this month. In a recent interview with Teen Vogue, Ballantyne revealed that it was her grandmother who first taught her how to play in grade three. Her now-deceased grandmother continues to influence her blossoming chess career.

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"When I first started playing, she introduced to me the idea of being the first African-American female chess master. I didn't think about it much because for me it seemed like an impossible feat, and I didn't think it could happen. I wasn't as focused and dedicated as I am now. I didn't think I was a good chess player—people told me I was, but it wasn't my mentality at that moment. But then after she died, that really affected me, because she was the one person that always had confidence in me. She never pushed me, and she always respected me for who I was. I have to reach that goal for her."

Let this be a lesson to all grandmas who think the the little ones may not be absorbing your words of wisdom — you may have more influence over your grandkids than you think.

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