Deputy uses 'game of war' to teach kids life lessons - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Deputy uses 'game of war' to teach kids life lessons

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Richland County Sheriff's  Deputy Curtis Cannon is a busy man.  After his day as school resource officer at Dutch Fork High School, he's  teaching kids the ancient game of chess.

"There's just so much you can do with chess," he said. "It's a game of life."

And kids are learning about life through learning the game.

"It makes you think," said junior Matthew Colburn."Kind of separates the men from the boys when it comes to thinking."

Colburn played football at Dutch Fork Jr. High, where Cannon also coaches in the fall. Although he's playing varsity football now at Dutch Fork High School, Colburn remains close to Cannon through chess club.

"I was already intrigued because he was my football coach," said Colburn. "So I said ‘Yeah, I'll do it for sure,' of course, because I already had that kind of relationship with him."

"I'm 6-4, 250 pounds and, you know, I don't want to be an intimidating figure ," said Cannon. "I'm here to help students. I'm also here to protect the students so it breaks down, you know, walls."

From football players to kids in the band, Cannon unites kids through chess.

"No matter who you are, there's so many different types  of people who have played chess, who play it now and who have played it in the past," said senior Nicholas Desetto. "We're all connected through this game."

Desetto says he's taking some of the life lessons he's learned through playing chess to Calhoun Honors College at Clemson next year, where he will study computer engineering.

"It's kind of weird to see how such a simple game from so long ago has connected to today's culture and it hasn't lost the element that makes it that," he said. "So it's kind of like you're playing the same game that people played thousands of years ago…So it's kind of humbling if you think about it. You're carrying on the footsteps of generations past."

Senior Annastasia Blake says what she's learned from playing chess will help her as she pursues a degree in nursing before going to medical school.

"I think it will help me strategy-wise when I have to solve problems in the future with a business or other things that I want to do in life, like being a doctor or nurse," said Blake. "I think it will help me find out more ways to come around obstacles."

"You have to think about all the possibilities that could happen after you move that one piece," said eighth-grader Dominic Moses. "I've learned to think before I do something."

"I've always thought of chess as an intelligent game played by intelligent people," said Desetto.

When asked what Deputy Cannon sees the kids get out of learning how to play chess, he said, "Grades. But focus, just realizing, thinking about tomorrow, planning, study habits."

In the summer Cannon teaches a chess camp offered by the Richland County Sheriff's Department.

"Every move that you make, it's almost—well—it is like, if you make a mistake, you learn from that mistake and you kind of go on and the next time you won't make that same move, so you kind of learn from that," he said.

Cannon is working with other schools in the area to set up competitions so students can show off their skills.

"It's a game of war on a little board," he said.

"A game like chess, if you start someone off at a young age, it can really push them forward and in terms of their thinking skills, it can develop a foundation for critical thinking skills," said Colburn.

"It takes a lot of the stress away from, like, peer pressure and stuff like that," said Blake. "So it's just cool to sit down, play a game of chess and just relax."

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