Chairman of the Board: Teacher motivates through chess
Teacher uses chess to motivate schoolkids

By CLAUDIA MELÉNDEZ SALINAS
Herald Salinas Bureau
Article Last Updated: 02/25/2008 01:29:55 AM PST

When Alberto Murillo was 9 years old, soon after he and his family came to Salinas to escape the violent streets of Compton, he found his first love.

“All I wanted was chess,” the 31-year-old says, the light of remembrance shining in his eyes as if he were going back in time and reliving those feelings. “All I could think of was chess.”

He was in fourth grade at Sanborn Elementary School, now Jesse Sanchez Elementary. He concentrated on his homework and did everything he was asked as long as he could play chess at the end of the day.

“Before that, nothing really mattered. I knew I had to go to school, but I didn’t feel there was a purpose,” he says. “But after learning chess, I started thinking about my purpose.”

Now Murillo has re-encountered his childhood love.

The former real estate agent and pre-med student has reconsidered his mission in life and returned to the Alisal Union School District to teach the game of royalty and strategy.

And he’s not just thinking about chess as entertainment: He wants his students to become inspired and to learn that if they can conquer chess, they can conquer the world.

“I’m not just teaching the kids chess,” Murillo says. “I’m motivating them. I’m inspiring them to go into higher education. We’re all pawns, but if you make it to the other side, the chess pawns become anything you want. Your dreams can become true.”

Last month, the Alisal Union School District approved a $12,000 grant to teach chess to its students, and so far about 200 children have enrolled in the program to learn from Murillo and his mentor, Gary Jones, who taught him in elementary school.

Here is the full story.

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