Dear friends…

Dear Friends,

For mom To-Lan Hughes, sending her 8-year old Daphne to a new school was a bit scary.

“When you’re ‘new,’ cliques form and sometimes there is bullying.” 
-To-Lan Hughes

To-Lan had good reason to worry about whether her daughter would feel at home in her new school. According to a recent survey, 30% of Philadelphia public school students never or rarely feel a sense of belonging at their school.

To-Lan’s middle son, Dylan, had also recently started at a new school and found his place by joining an ASAP Chess club. At home, Dylan would show Daphne the different moves and tactics he learned after school. This gave To-Lan an idea.

“I wanted Daphne to have that base to feel she was part of something greater.” –To-Lan

While cheering on Dylan at an ASAP Chess tournament, To-Lan met a coach who was also convinced that chess could be that “something greater” for Daphne.

“I tell my students chess is like life. You need to set goals for yourself and you need to make good decisions.” –Gil Motley, Coach of the Lenfest Center Chess Club

So Daphne began attending weekly practices at the Lenfest Center in Hunting Park. Heeding her new coach’s advice, she set her first goal – to win a medal at an ASAP tournament. Competing against older and more experienced players, wins weren’t easy to come by at first. But that was ok, because now Daphne had her team.

“If I lost a game or two, I knew my teammates would always lift me up.” — Daphne

Over time, this camaraderie made Daphne a more resilient and determined player. It wasn’t long before she earned her first medal, an experience she recalls vividly: “AMAZING.  I knew I would love chess  from that point on.” — Daphne

As she’s added to her medal collection, Daphne has also embraced opportunities to connect with other chess-playing girls at ASAP’s tournaments, even befriending Women’s Grandmaster Jen Shahade at ASAP’s annual Girls Summer Chess Camp. In a traditionally male-dominated sport, these bonds are especially important.

(Check out ASAP & Philly Girls Play chess in the news with WHYY)

“Even at the state championships, the girls never feel alone. It’s not just within their team, it’s a Philly thing. It is a community.” – To-Lan

Thinking about how far her daughter has come, To-Lan is grateful to the the many coaches and individuals who have enriched Daphne’s life and given her a “second family.” She knows far too many children in Philadelphia don’t have the same opportunity.

“It takes a village to raise a child. And if I could create a club for every child to keep them active in whatever they’re interested in, I would.”– To-Lan

All kids need safewelcoming places to go after school where they can do the things they love in the company of peers who encourage and support them.

That’s why your donation matters.

With your help, we can ensure that more kids in Philadelphia, kids just like Daphne, feel part of “something greater” — one chess, debate, drama, and Scrabble club at a time.

In this important work, we are most grateful for your continued support. Many thanks.


Justin Ennis, Executive Director
Wendy Glazer, Board Chair

P.S. By 6th grade, children from low-income households experience 3,000 fewer hours of after school enrichment than their peers.

Give today and help us close this gap!