Philadelphia All-Stars Mentors Cross Virtual Borders

Philadelphia All-Stars vs Exeter Juniors


 Pictured: Shira, Jamal, Lind and Amy



1 Srisa (White) v Nick (Black)

2 Shira (Black) v Vignesh (White)

3 Elijah (White) v Reese (Black)

4 Manas (Black) v Agnes (White

5 Sammy (White) v Josh (Black

6 Linda (Black) v Quillan (White)

7 Amy (White) v Ned (Black)

8 Jamal (Black) v David (White)


This past weekend, eight members of the Philadelphia All-Star Chess Mentor Program had the unique opportunity to cross international, virtual borders by participating as a team in an online chess-brigade versus the U.K. The match was against the Exeter Juniors Chess team from Exeter, England, organized by MindSports International. If these mentors felt their neighborhood competition was tough—the U.K. would be a battle unlike any other—and they weren’t even face to face!



Pictured: Linda and Srise focusing on their games

The mentors met on Saturday morning at Drexel’s STEAM focused ExCITe Center that supports initiatives at the intersection of science, art, and design on both university-wide and city-wide levels. There, our mentors were paired against their opponents on MindSports Academy site where the Philadelphia All-Star team triumphed with a 6-2 victory in a series of highly contested matches, proving neck-and-beck the entire day. Perhaps the most exhilarating moment was when Nick from Exeter won with a single second remaining on his clock after Srisa’s time ran out.


 Pictured: Shima Seiki Textile Lab- used to infuse technology with fashion

After the match, mentors were guided on a special tour of the ExCITe Center that included a Magnetic Resonator Piano which uses electromagnets to induce the strings to vibration and Express Robotics which can respond to the environment in a way that a human being might.


 Pictured: Jamal, Amy, Elijah, Sammy, Srisa, Linda and HUBO the robot


However, still lingering for our team was the one opponent left to defeat…and he was no novice.

To finish off the day, the mentors participated in an online simul against Grandmaster Keith Arkell. Several of the All-Stars were excited to test their mettle against a grandmaster, especially when he shared encouragement after their close defeats. Arkell commented: "I found the simul I performed afterwards to be extremely tough. Everybody really dug in against me, and while only one player took half a point off me, others might think themselves unlucky not to have done the same.”

All participants were enthused by this opportunity to test their prowess, oceans away from their competitors. Exeter Chess Club Match Supervisor commented, “I’m really pleased we did this. We had the whole range of skills and ages represented, and the atmosphere all day was just great—cheerful and relaxed, despite the intellectual pressure.” The Philadelphia all-Star Chess Mentors are all too familiar with high tension matches and the intellectual stamina that is required to overcome these tournaments, despite the results.

On behalf of ASAP/ After School Activities Partnerships, we are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to engage in a game that has brought such joyous adversity to our team with Exeter Chess Club. We are also thankful for the space provided by Drexel, and the organizing led by MindSports International. We look forward to another face-off soon! 


To read about The Exeter Chess match and their experience competing with ASAP chess, click here.

The Macquarie Group Foundation sponsors ASAP's Philadelphia Scholastic Chess League

On Thursday, March 2nd, the top chess teams of ASAP's Philadelphia Scholastic Chess League, sponsored by The Macquarie Group Foundation (the philanthropic arm of Macquarie Group), will compete during the ASAP Chess Finals. Since November, teams have been competing in bi-weekly tournaments held at the School District of Philadelphia. For many, the event hosted at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, will be the first step on the road to Nationals. The Macquarie Group Foundation supports the city’s best and brightest chess teams as they vie for the title of City Champs at the elementary, middle and high school level.

In order to qualify for the ASAP Chess Finals, Philadelphia youth competed at the ASAP Chess Semi-Finals on February 23rd, hosted by the Venice Island Performing Arts & Recreation Center. As a result, the remaining competitors set to face off on March 2nd are:

  • Elementary schools: Julia R. Masterman School and Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter (PPAC);
  • Middle schools:  Julia R. Masterman School and Esperanza Academy Charter School;
  • High schools: Central High School and George Washington Carver High School of Engineering & Science 

This year’s league season has been an impactful one to say the least. While coaches have been sharpening the strategies of their players, the teams have become incredibly tight-knit. “For me that’s honestly the best part—you get to play and you get to become friends with people” states Esperanza 8th grader, and co-captain, Ilian. “We all think the same thing at heart- it's meeting the people and getting new friends. You’re usually not friends with people who beat you. But that’s not the case here,” added teammate, De-Shawn.

IMG 8303Esperanza middle school chess team; ASAP Chess finalists

There will be no room for amateurs at the finals, as every team will be competing not only for a trophy, but a chance at states. Players must analyze and adjust their moves accordingly, knowing that as in chess, the real prize is what lies ahead—Nationals in Nashville.

This year’s sponsor, The Macquarie Group Foundation, provides support to community organizations globally each year through financial support, volunteering and skills sharing, predominantly in the locations in which Macquarie operates. The work of the foundation is significantly influenced by the activities of Macquarie staff with a focus on capacity building within the community sector and increasing social and economic mobility. In October 2016, ASAP had the privilege of working with Delaware Investments, a member of the Macquarie Group, for the 2016 Charity Golf Classic, raising more than $137,000 to support ASAP/ After School Activities Partnerships.

Delaware Investments, a member of Macquarie Group, is a global asset management firm that offers a wide variety of equity and fixed income solutions for individual and institutional investors. Through teams of disciplined and talented investment professionals, the firm is committed to delivering long-term, consistent performance. Delaware Investments is supported by the resources of Macquarie Group, a global provider of asset management, investment, banking, financial, and advisory services with US$370.6 billion in assets under management as of June 30, 2016.

ASAP would like to thank the Macquarie Group Foundation for sponsoring the Philadelphia Scholastic Chess League Finals, in support of the mission at ASAP/ After School Activities Partnerships to develop high quality after school activities and resources to empower youth and strengthen communities in Philadelphia. Their support directly engages the youth of Philadelphia in an activity that has been shown to, “not only improve cognitive capacities, it also influence socio-personal development and molds the coping and problem-solving capacity in the children and adolescents who play chess,” (Spanish Journal of Psychology, 2012). Partnering with the Macquarie Group Foundation allows Philadelphia youth to showcase the talents in which they have diligently cultivated over the 2016-17 league season.


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Article written by ASAP/ After School Activities Partnerships, Development Coordinator, Victoria Bakey

ASAP Middle School Debaters Cover Immigration Reform

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On Wednesday, February 14th, 8th grader Douglas Johnson of Thurgood Marshall, boarded a North Philly bus with a one-way destination: ASAP Debate middle school tournament at Mastery Charter Hardy Williams. Although his school did not currently offer debate, he heard ASAP's new middle school debate topic was comprehensive immigration reform and knew that he wanted his voice to be heard-- a one-hour bus would not stop him. The timely middle school tournament addressed whether immigration reform should include a pathway to citizenship.

There, Johnson joined more than 100 students from schools across the city who have spent the last month crafting arguments for whether or not immigration reform should include a pathway to citizenship. The topic was selected by the students in December, prior to the political maelstrom that erupted over the new federal administration’s recent immigration policies. The topic also comes at a time when many schools in Philadelphia have welcomed a growing population of immigrant students, providing additional relevance and context to students’ examination of the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. 

Young Douglas felt strongly towards lending his voice to the nation-wide conversation, so much so that he competed as an individual--also known as a maverick--placing 2nd overall in the tournament, having no training or coaching assistance. 

While the ideological divide in Washington D.C. often seems difficult to bridge, the middle school debaters had to prepare both pro and con arguments on the topic at hand. Through this experience, students are learning to appreciate multiple perspectives and understand the importance of citing facts and research to support their claims. ASAP Debate Manager, Sara Morningstar told reporter Justin Udo of KYW Newsradio:

“They’re learning that there are multiple sides to each issue, that it’s not just black and white, there are grey areas. You could possibly change your mind. Everything isn’t just one-sided. I think that’s an incredibly important skill that our students are developing."

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ASAP Debate recognized the extensive efforts of paritipcating students by awarding 1st place to Tafiq Williams & Joseph Oronto-Pratt of Mastery Hardy Williams; 2nd place to Douglas Johnson of Thurgood Marshall and 3rd place to Riley Keenan & Noel McClellan of Masterman. The evening’s top speakers included Joseph Oronto-Pratt (Mastery Hardy Williams), Akayla Brown (Laboratory Charter School), Riley Keenan (Masterman), Tafiq Williams (Mastery Hardy Williams) and Douglas Johnson (Thurgood Marshall).

Young ASAP Debaters, continue to willingly challenge themselves with topics that are often divisive and arduous among even the most experienced professionals. However, these middle school voices find strength in devoted research and passion of individuals like, Douglas Johnson; someone who isn’t afraid to do it alone, and in this case, do it well.

 ASAP would like to thank Mastery Charter Hardy Williams for providing the space for ASAP's tournament and congratulates all its middle school debaters for a job well done.

ASAP's next middle shcool debate will be held on Wednesday, March 15th-World Speech Day- at Central High School. For more information, contact Sara Morningstar at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For information on upcoming topics, click here.


This article was written by ASAP/ After School Activities Partnerships Communication & Development Coordinator, Victoria Bakey. 

PECO-ASAP Celebrate 10 Years of 'Checkmate Violence'

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“In this room, there are a bunch of minds and one thing that chess does is keep your mind sharp. I’m intimidated by all of the brain power, all of the minds in this room,” proclaimed local Philadelphia Officer Mouzone. On Saturday, January 21st, ASAP hosted the 10th Annual PECO-ASAP Checkmate Violence Chess Marathon at Temple University, with over 250 of the city's most skilled competitors (now that’s a lot of brain power). From 9AM Saturday until 5PM Sunday, hundreds of scholastic chess players crowded the Temple University Gittis Student Center; some quietly practicing last minute moves, while others sorted through donated chess books to prepare for their next match. We get to go to so many places with ASAP, and play different people, know more people. We get to have free books…free books! I know there is a library, but this, this is a free book! exclaimed Kavai Sterling of ENON Connected Pawns chess club, as he stood next to his best friend, Christian Debrady. “We became friends because he did a weird opening at a tournament, and I knew I had to be his friend. He lost though…” jokes Christian. Kavai responded by excitedly sifting through multiple pieces of literature to strategize a win with a more efficient opening for Checkmate Violence. “I chose this book to get better on my opening. I’m tired of losing.” 

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Following 2 rounds of rated and non-rated matches, ASAP welcomed officers from the 39th Police District to say some words of encouragement at the lunch time pep-rally about the importance of utilizing chess to reach goals, while also welcoming the youth challengers to take on Philly’s finest. Sergeant Mannings took the stage, recognizing the role of dedicated adults in the room, “I commend coaches and parents and adults who brought the kids here- young people you don’t know what a gift that is. What they are doing is focusing your mind. Every coach here, every parent here and every police officer here will tell you-- you get in trouble when you stop thinking. Chess is a thinker’s game, so keep on thinking. Thinking keeps you out of trouble.” Over the last few months, the officers have been supporting the chess team at Dobbins High School, led by coach Prince Campbell.
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                                                                                           39th District Officers with Dubbins' High School Chess Team & Coach Prince Campbell

The message of considering one's actions and keeping youth engaged during after school hours was a constant theme spoken by the officers. However, Philly youth were not the only ones moved by inspirational words on Saturday. Sergeant Sanford stated, “I see a bunch of faces I’ve never seen before all sitting together and shaking hands and competing peacefully with each other. It’s a good thing to see. In the neighborhoods we serve, we don’t see this there. We need to see more of this. Keep going--keep the momentum.” 

Overall, ASAP recognized individual tournament competitors Austin Ready from Taggert (K-3U400), Luca Jose La Rosa of PPACS (K-5U700), Quinn Dominick of Masterman (K-8U1100) and Pernell Jordan of MTCC (K-12 open), for placing first in their sections.  Team awards were also distributed to first place schools and clubs; Powell and Black Knights (K-3U400), SLA Middle School and Lenfest Center (K-5U700), Masterman and Dark Knights Center City chess club (K-8U1100) and Abington High School and Minor Threats Chess Club all received first place! Although some went home with trophies, everyone left knowing they got to ‘checkmate violence.’
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After enduring 2 days of competitive chess matches, Philadelphia youth proved they had the stamina to not only weather the moves of their opponents, but also varying life obstacles to come.  ASAP chess players are developing a confidence to find success in their future aspirations. We are reminded of what Sergeant Sanford said during the pep rally as he stood next to young Kalif on stage, “In 10-15 years I don’t know what Kalif will be…a president, a doctor, a lawyer. I’m not sure. But he’s getting that guidance right here with ASAP.”
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ASAP is grateful to presenting sponsor PECO for its support of enriching activities and experiences for youth, as well as for the many teachers and volunteers who share their passion for the game with our city’s young people. ASAP also thanks Dobbin’s coach, Prince Campbell, Sergeant Jeffery Mannings, Sergeant Stanley Sanford, Officer Jamal McFadden, Officer Daniel Levitt and Officer Benjamin Mouzone for speaking at the pep rally. ASAP also is appreciative to Temple University for inviting students to explore its wonderful campus. 


This article was written by ASAP/ After School Activities Partnerships' Development Coordinator, Victoria Bakey.

Photographs provided by Rachel Utain-Evans 

Eagles Judge Middle School ASAP Debate Tournament

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Philadelphia Eagles' defensive end, Aziz Shittu, joined ASAP as a celebrity judge at December's middle school debate tournament

On Monday, December 12th, ASAP Debate held the largest middle school debate tournament in its history during which students passionately presented pro and con arguments on whether direct popular vote should replace the Electoral College. The event, hosted at J.R. Masterman School, featured 124 students from 11 different schools competing across three rounds.


Prior to the first round, youth crowded the Masterman cafeteria as they rehearsed their opening presentations.  When asked, a young middle schooler cheered over the excitement, “I do debate because I’m gonna be Mayor.” His classmate chuckled in response stating, “well watch out, because I’m going to be president.” Without question, the outcome of the recent presidential election added relevance and urgency to many of the students’ arguments.  “My voice isn’t being heard…Our voices aren’t being heard,” contested middle school debate student, Akayla Brown of Overbrook Educational Center, in favor of direct popular vote. However, as with all debates, students must be prepared to defend both sides of the argument and develop an appreciation for perspectives other than their own.


Special guest, Philadelphia Eagles’ Aziz Shittu, joined ASAP Debate for one of the tournament’s championship rounds. During the NFL season, Monday is typically reserved as a day off for the team. However, many Eagles players, such as Shittu, use this chance to enhance their community through the Eagles Care Community Monday Initiative, by teaming up with local non-profit charities to make a lasting impact on the community. Eagles’ defensive end Aziz faced the daunting task of judging middle school debaters Jewel Austin & Jasmine Jackson of Overbrook Educational Center and Akayla Brown & Eman Ghanem of Laboratory Charter School on replacing the Electoral College. Shittu was in the hot seat.

Czj7YrVXUAEAMYqPhiladelphia Eagles- Julie Bacanskas

 Other participating schools included Masterman, Mastery Charter School Hardy Williams, Overbrook Educational Center, Boys’ Latin Charter School, Friends Select, Young Scholars Charter School, Greenfield Elementary School, Hamilton Elementary School, Freire Charter School, the Laboratory Charter School, and Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School. Principal Brown of J.R. Mastermen School, kicked off the event, reminding the students, supporting faculty and volunteer judges that, “We must always remember that first and foremost we will have fun today.” Students cheered in excitement as they shuffled with their teammates through Mastermen hallways, for the first round…among them, many future leaders. 

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Overall, Masterman placed first, with 7th graders Keziah Miller and José DeSilva named as the top debaters on their team, while an additional 5 top speakers were recognized in a special feature in the Philadelphia Public School Notebook

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Photo credit: Rachel Utain-Evans
Finally, ASAP’s special guest, Aziz Shittu, addressed the students during the award ceremony, encouraging the youth to pursue the activities that they love, work hard at it, put the time in and most importantly, stick to it. His attitude of commitment and dedication to nurturing young talents, showcased on stage as he eloquently spoke to the middle schoolers about their futures.

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Photo credit: Rachel Utain-Evans
While many youth left their contentions and resolutions behind as the tournament concluded, no student left without the notion of remembering to have fun doing what they love.

ASAP thanks Principal Brown, Mr. Gilligan and the Masterman Debate team for providing a welcoming environment for ASAP Debate’s record-setting number of middle school debaters. In addition, ASAP thanks Eagles Care Community for supporting ASAP— especially the Eagles Charitable Foundation and Aziz Shittu – for their steadfast support of youth in Philadelphia.
When students return in January 2017, they will explore the critical facts in opinions of another hot topic: comprehensive immigration reform.


This article was written by ASAP/ After School Activities Partnerships Communications & Development Coordinator, Victoria Bakey 


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