SAN ANTONIO – It’s a typical Saturday at the Bridge at Roy Maas Youth Alternatives – an emergency shelter for kids ages 5 to 17.
The kids are playing video games, basketball, board games and even chess, but a chess match isn’t something you would have seen one year ago.
“I thought it would be pretty cool if I could teach something like so, then they’d be able to play it even when I’m not there,” Jeremy Saklad, 17, started volunteering at the organization a year ago and teaches kids how to play chess every Saturday.
“It’s fun for me because, you know, I’m playing chess,” he says. “It’s fun for them since they get to learn a new thing. They get to see if they can beat me. And they have by the way.”
Jeremy’s mother Amy says the volunteering has really helped Jeremy, who has Asperger Syndrome, which is characterized by poor social interactions, obsessions and odd speech patterns.
“It’s been really helpful for him as far as confidence,” she says. “Sometimes, when we come, the kids are really looking forward to seeing him. And they’ll already be playing chess or will have taught other kids how to play chess.
Jeremy never misses a Saturday and plans to continue volunteering until he heads off to college in the fall.
“I’ve really loved it,” he says. “I look foward to it every week.”
While chess is the foundation for the relationship, in the end, it’s so much more.
“It’s not just I think that he’s teaching chess,” says Amy. “I think it’s that he’s spending a lot of time with kids. Kids one-on-one which is great for him and also helpful for the other kids.
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