KPIX 5 Cool SchoolsBy Kenny Choi

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — A Bay Area teacher is using his knowledge of chess to inspire students to make better choices in and out of the classroom.

Adisa Banjoko, teacher at John O’Connell High School in San Francisco, has developed a more than a just a chess club, he established a non-profit called Hip-Hop Chess Federation. The goal is to use chess to help students develop in other ways that will enhance their chances of success in life.

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So many rappers talk about chess,” said Banjoko. “I realized that I could use that as a lure to bring them into the game.”

Established in 2006, HHCF students quickly learn their short-term decisions have big consequences on the board – and down the road.

“You have to plan out your movements right now for the future,” said sophomore Sam May. “You can’t let what you’ve done in the past affect that.”

“I created the curriculum to help them understand long- and short-term goal-planning,” said Banjoko. I created the curriculum to help them get emotional mastery, right? So they’re not, you know, flipping out when things don’t go their way.”

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“Three positive actions are better than one negative thought,” said sophomore Cristobal Cardenas. “In chess, three actions or moves better than thinking you’re going to lose a piece.”

Banjoko also used his connections and got hip-hop artist and producer RZA to help. Banjoko even decided to give up his job in Silicon Valley to dedicate himself to his endeavor. “Because the kids matter more,” he said. “Because American education needs a booster shot.”

To boost student interest, Banjoko this year convinced his bosses to allow 18 students to take the two-hour class each week.

“You can concentrate better,” said sophomore Pedro Llerenas. “Because when you’re playing the game, you’re just concentrating on one thing.”

These are sometimes students not necessarily interested in school at all and would rather be doing other things,” said Principal Mark Alvarado. “But yet they are engaged in school through chess.”

Part of my goal is to help make it so that when these kids come out, that they can be at the big technology companies of today, that they can be at the best schools of today,” said Banjoko.

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Banjoko hopes to expand the program to more than just O’Connell High School students. He ultimately envisions HHCF community education centers in other cities where violence and high school dropout rates are the highest.