Empowering Youth

By Ashlee Duren | Photos Courtesy of Chess and Community

Lemuel LaRoche is empowering children in Athens one move at a time. His mission is simple – Think Before You Move. Through his non-profit, Chess and Community, LaRoche strives to develop the next generation of leaders by teaching them critical thinking, academic enrichment and community engagement through the game of chess.

The organization was created in an effort to provide real world experiences and assist in breaking “the cycle of poverty and heal from generational trauma.” LaRoche graduated from the University of Georgia with a master’s in social work  and a passion to change the world. He quickly learned it would not be easy and would be an uphill climb. LaRoche detailed what led him to start Chess and Community during his March 2015 talk at TedxUGA.

“I found the answer during one of my visits to the Village of Peace in Dimona, Israel as I sat adjacent to a white Russian Jew, who had I nothing in common with besides the fact that we shared the human race. We shared the sun, the sun that shined on us that day and we shared a chess board.”

He walked away with the building blocks for his nonprofit, Chess and Community. Why chess? In order to master the game, one must first conquer his or her own mind. The program teaches impoverished youth to apply the same principles to life to overcome their current situations, equipping them for a brighter future and ultimately “breaking the cycle.”