Three On The Road is taking us to a place you may not readily associate with Mississippi. The United States Chess Federation has designated Franklin County, Mississippi as the Chess City of the Year for 2017. It’s a place where little kids will beat the stew out of you, as long as you are playing their game.
At first glance, Meadville, Mississippi, seems a quiet community with a neat, trim downtown and crepe myrtles announcing summer’s arrival on the Franklin County Courthouse steps. Sports records of the high school are posted beside the "Welcome to Meadville" sign, making it a seemingly typical town.
So you may or may not be surprised to discover this here, the Franklin Chess Center. Inside the center, youngsters from the area are engaged in learning, practicing and playing chess. A couple-hundred school-agers participate in the program. Their instructor is Dr. Jeff Bulington.
"The person who started this project, who brought me down here to run it, had it in his mind that he thought that chess might make a difference in the academic lives of the students," said Bulington said. "That it might add a little something that wasn’t there."
Chess makes you think. The game makes you think about the moves you can make and more importantly the moves your opponent can make against you. The more you play the greater your confidence grows, along with your concentration and discipline.
Franklin County’s Superintendent of Education Chris Kent said he has seen values instilled here in the chess center spill over into the classroom.
"We’ve had a lot of parents make very positive comments about these kids, about their study habits, taking things more serious, applying themselves to their lessons and having confidence in themselves, " said Kent. "And that’s the biggest thing we see out of chess. It builds confidence in these kids. If you put the work in it will pay off. And that’s one thing they are applying to the classroom."
Caecillia and Marc Colson are brother and sister. Marc has been trying to beat Caecillia for about a week and a half. So far he hasn’t won a single game. But he keeps trying. Caecillia said she knows why he does not give up.
"He believes in himself and he thinks he can," said Caecillia said. "He’s going to end up beating me because all the mistakes he makes in our games helps him realize not to do it again."
That sounds a lot better than cussing and quitting. And there are no quitters here; not when you’ve learned that even when you lose one round, you win if you’ve applied what you’ve been taught about the game. These youngsters are doing that in Franklin County.
A story about kids playing chess in Meadville will run on "60 Minutes" this coming Sunday night.
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