Proposed budget cuts would slash afterschool funding for children across the city, and one of the items on the chopping block is a beloved middle school chess program that has been honored by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and featured on film.
The $130 million in cuts would affect more than 41,000 children, according to the Campaign for Children, which took part in rallies last month protesting the loss of afterschool programs they say serve as crucial second homes for many students. The most beloved of all of these is the chess program at Intermediate School 318 in Williamsburg, which in 2012 became the first middle school ever to win the United Chess Federation’s national high school championship.
The team's road to glory was documented in the 2012 film Brooklyn Castle. The documentary was partly funded by crowdfunding Web site Kickstarter, where it raised more than $20,000.
Humans of New York photographer Brandon Stanton, who earlier this spring helped to raise more than $100,000 for the Bedford-Stuyvesant YMCA's summer camp, recently called attention to I.S. 318 in one of his posts.
"Perhaps the most inspiring story in New York right now is the I.S. 318 Chess Team," Stanton wrote, along with a photo that featured team coordinator John Galvin and one of his star players.
The city has historically kicked $20,000 into the chess program's annual budget of $60,000. The students and faculty have already been holding bake sales, selling candy, and reaching out to private donors to make up the rest. Losing the final third to budget cuts would effectively end the program.
“This is the best chess program in the US," Galvin told the Daily News. "I don’t even know how we would break the news to the kids."
The budget is due June 30.
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