BCPS Castle Hill Elementary all-girls team nationally ranked No. 2 in chess
Castle Hill Elementary School three-girl chess team representing Broward County Public Schools
By Nadine Drew
A three-girl chess team re-presenting Broward County Public Schools Castle Hill Elementary School in Lauderhill placed second nationally at the 11th Annual Kasparov Chess Foundation All-Girls National Championship in Chicago last week.
The Lauderhill school trio of McKhaila McKenzie, Erykah Shaw and Shyan Braswell brought home a national second-place ranking for teams under 12 after defeating fierce competitors from public and private schools across the country.
Many of the other girls competing were supported by well-funded chess programs and had either master-level chess coaches for personal or frequent group lessons.
Castle Hill girls’ secret weapon was their dedicated teacher and coach, Robert McKenzie, who taught them the game. McKenzie is a veteran teacher who has served at Castle Hill Elementary for 18 years.
“This was one of the most astounding performances of rising to an occasion of intense pressure I ever witnessed,” McKenzie said. “Their second-place finish at a national tournament is a testament to the hope that our children can accomplish anything they desire if they listen humbly, work hard and do their best.”
“Research shows that chess increases analytical thinking,” said Dr. Mark Strauss, director of School Performance and Accountability, who has been working on a plan to bring chess to district elementary schools. “We are thrilled that the Castle Hill all-girls team represented us nationally and showcased the phenomenal outcomes that chess produces.”
“I applaud the accomplishment of the students at Castle Hill Elementary,” said city of Lauderhill Commissioner Kenneth Thurston. “The teaching of chess expands the mind and increases the capacity to learn.”
The Kasparov National Championship is the most prestigious chess event for female players under the age of 18.