Richland One volunteer helps students grow through game of chess

Columbia, SC (WIS) - National Volunteer Week will end this Sunday, but for many their commitment to give back will not stop.

That includes Lendel Robinson who started an after-school chess club program at Lower Richland High School three years ago, and he has been faithfully there almost every Wednesday since.

"It's just like having two armies compete against each other," said Lendel Robinson. "To the victor goes the spoils."

Robinson loves to teach students how to command those tiny armies, and he's at the school long after the halls have emptied for the day.

"He's been here every Wednesday," said Gabriel Johnson, a sophomore student and chess club members. "Even sometimes I'm not here every Wednesday, but he's here every Wednesday just for us to learn."

That is something Robinson wouldn't trade for the world. His love for chess started at age 10, so he was thrilled to start the mentor program at the high school during the 2011-2012 school year.

"In the beginning it was like, 'Okay I'm going to go do some volunteering, hopefully I can make an impact,' but now it just feels like coming home to family," said Robinson.

A banker by day, Robinson's success with the game of chess is evident by the number of trophies to his name. Now his chess masters in training are finding success on and off the board.

"A lot of the students that we have weren't doing that well academically. They didn't like to speak in front of other people. They didn't like to be put on the spot," said Brenton Brown, the faculty advisor for the chess club and an English Language-Arts teacher. "However once they get into a really intense chess match, you start to see the tides turn. For a lot of them, it's brought them out of their shell, helped them academically and helped them with critical thinking."

Brown and Robinson say club membership continues to grow each year and so do the students' skills. Robinson's even been beat by one of his own.

"I've had two losses, and I remember them fondly," laughed Robinson.

Both of those losses were to Senior student Anthony Dove. "I felt like I was on top of the world," said Anthony about the wins. "Very rare."

It's a world that's been opened wide thanks to a coach who's simply wanted to share his love for a game and his time.

Robinson was honored as one of the top five male volunteers in the Midlands last year through the D.U.D.E. which stands for Displaying the Ultimate in Dedication and Enthusiasm for volunteering, MASCAVA awards.

He says the club is still looking to expand, and hopes to add more female members soon.