World renown “Queen of Katwe” visits Highline

Children’s Home Society of Washington’s Highline Early Learning Center is participating in an exciting pilot program with Chess4Life that seeks to determine the effect of early exposure to chess on children. We believe chess helps children take a strategic approach to life’s challenges.

Through our partnership with Chess4Life, we had the distinguished honor of hosting Phiona Mutesi, also known as the “Queen of Katwe” at the Highline Early Learning Center. Phiona is a Ugandan chess prodigy who became the woman candidate master after her performances at World Chess Olympiads. Joining her was coach Robert Katende, founder of the SOM Chess Academy in Uganda, and Benjamin Mukumbya, a SOM Chess Academy student.

During their time in Washington state, Phiona, Robert and Benjamin wanted to spread awareness of life skills learned through chess, by doing school appearances, tournaments and private events.  We invited them along with Chess4Life CEO and national chess master Elliot Neff to tour our center, play chess with the children and see the positive effects of our chess pilot. It was so fun watching the children enjoy their visit laughing and using strategies to move their pieces. Our guests were so impressed and cheered the children on.

The hope we share with Chess4Life is for children to learn sportsmanship, focus, respect, goal setting and planning. We also know that chess helps children improve their math skills over time.

Our ultimate goal is that children enjoy the process of learning chess, and gain fundamental skills from their participation to help them prepare for school. Phiona never gave up and made her dreams a reality. That is a great message for our future students.

Abby Ajaero is the site supervisor for Highline Early Learning Center.