Ascension helps sponsor after-school chest clubs at Ferguson-Florissant School District in St. Louis County.

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis and Ascension have partnered with the Ferguson-Florissant School District in St. Louis County to bring after-school chess clubs to each of the 20 elementary and middle schools in the district for the 2015 fall semester.

The program was announced September 15 at Walnut Grove Elementary, where one of the best chess players in the world, Grandmaster Maurice Ashley, spent the day teaching the game to some of the students.

Click here to watch a video story about the new program.​ Read about the program in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and St. Louis American.​

"It's been a longtime goal of ours to bring after-school chess club to all the schools in our district," said Dr. Joseph Davis, superintendent of the Ferguson-Florissant School District. "It's a terrific opportunity to instill confidence in our children and provide them with lifelong skills that will enable future successes."

The 10-week program, the first of its kind for the school district, will be funded by Ascension and administered by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center. The hope is to engage hundreds of students across the district in once-a-week chess club events led by a certified instructor. Students can participate without cost to the district or their parents, which removes an obstacle many children face when participating in extracurricular activities.

"We hope this program marks the beginning of bringing after-school chess activities not only to students in these 20 schools, but eventually to students across the St. Louis region," said Nick Ragone, Ascension Chief Communications and Marketing Officer. "We'd love to see other area businesses form similar partnerships with the Chess Club and Scholastic Center to bring this wonderful sport to as many schools as possible."

Not only is chess a challenging game, but the type of thinking involved empowers players and strengthens their decision-making skills.

"Chess is a wonderful teaching tool for all people and particularly schoolchildren," said Tony Rich, executive director of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. "It reinforces logical thinking, discipline, attention to detail, strategic planning and complex problem solving. We know that children who learn chess tend to perform better at school, and it's a game they can play for the rest of their lives."

"Chess is truly a special and magical game, particularly for young people," said Maurice Ashley, the first and only African-American Grandmaster. "I learned to play chess at the age of 14 and it became the largest influencer in my life. Through my partnership with Ascension and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, I'm proud to encourage kids to take part in such a positive, empowering activity."

The Ferguson-Florissant School District will be sharing more information with students and families about how they can participate in the program.​​​