Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hoping for a Dream to Come True

I just saw this story at Susan Polgar's chess blog:
Triumph Over Adversities

(video not included)
Local chess champ triumps over adversities
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Dann Cuellar

WEST PHILADELPHIA - June 17, 2011 (WPVI) -- It is a story of triumph over adversity. A Philadelphia teenage girl has overcome several big obstacles in her young life, and finds herself about to play in a chess championship.

But it is how she got there that makes her story so interesting. The chess term is called "End Game".
17 year old Vanita Young of West Philadelphia is seen as a rising star in the world of Chess after she beat out 600 girls at the Pennsylvania State Scholastic Chess Championships last March.

But her path to victory has also been filled with much sadness.

"My dad passed away when I was 13, he had diabetes, and I was abandoned by my mom when I was two," said Vanita.

While trying to deal with her sorrow and turmoil at a young age, a man attempted to assault her one day while walking home to her grandparent's house. Vanita managed to get away.

The bright spot in her life came when she was in 6th grade, and a middle school teacher saw her sitting outside alone and invited her to learn the game of chess.

"She brought me in there and taught me how to move the pieces and from that day on, I went to every practice," Vanita said.

She became so good at chess, the Walter Palmer Charter School junior has been invited to the Susan Polgar Girl's Invitational in Lubbock, Texas in July to compete for $120,000 in scholarships and prizes.

"It was exciting, I was like speechless. I went up there for my award; I was so red I couldn't even talk," said Vanita.

But there was only one hitch, Vanita needed $2,000 to attend; money that she and her retired grandparents did not have.

"It was sad, but I couldn't do much at that point, since I didn't have enough money for it," Vanita said.

Congressman Bob Brady came to the rescue after reading about Vanita's story Friday morning.

"We contacted one of my guys, Kenny Smuckler, contacted the charter school people that we know, Students First, and we told them to read the story. And they told us that they would help us raise the money to send this young lady to Lubbock, Texas," said Congressman Bob Brady.

"I was so excited, I was running through the living room," said Vanita. "It makes me feel that there are good people out there and that people care and want to see my dreams come true and that made me happy on the inside."

Vanita has seen a lot of adversity in her young life, but she continues to push for her goals. And with the help and generousity of Congressman Brady and the community, she is being blessed by the kindness of others.

This story has a happy ending - Vanita is going to the Susan Polgar Girls' Invitational!!!!
Posted on Sat, Jun. 18, 2011
Ronnie Polaneczky: Knights gather to fulfill girl's chess dream

By Ronnie Polaneczky
Philadelphia Daily News
Daily News Columnist

YOU KNOW the best part of my job? Calling someone who's been in a pickle and letting her know that her troubles are over.

That was my happy task yesterday, when I phoned Vanita Young and told her to pack her bags, she was going to Texas.

"Oh, my God! That's crazy! Thank you!" said Vanita, 17, when she learned that a benefactor would pay her way to the prestigious Susan Polgar Chess Invitational next month in Lubbock.

The rainmaker? Philly's own U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, who read my column about Vanita over breakfast yesterday and then phoned his aide Ken Smukler to say, "We've got to make it happen for this girl."

Smukler called Joe Watkins at Students First PA, a pro-charter- school group, because Vanita attends a charter school - she's a junior at Walter D. Palmer at Broad and Master streets.

"If these guys are so in favor of charter schools, they need to support the kids who go there," said Brady.

Watkins agreed and the deal was done, within hours.

"You write a helluva story, what can I say?" Brady said.

In this case, the story's irony was heartbreaking: Vanita had been selected to attend the most prestigious girls' chess event in the country - only one girl is invited from each state - but could not afford to attend it.

Especially cruel is that chess, Vanita told me, is the thing that pulls her through sad days. And she has had her share of them.

"It's been a tough life for her," said her grandmother, Algloria Evans, who with husband, Raymond, has raised Vanita from toddlerhood. Vanita's mom abandoned her, and her dad, who battled the bottle, died in 2007. Father and daughter were close and his death took a toll.

Vanita "was already devastated about not having her mother around," Evans said. "When she was little, she called every woman 'Mommy' because she missed her mom so much. I said to her, 'I know I am your grandmom, but until your mom comes back, you can call me Mommy.' "

Vanita's mother never returned.

"She's a wonderful girl. She has worked very, very hard for this honor," said Evans.

No wonder her story inspired so many readers - many of whom phoned the After School Activities Partnership after my story ran, offering help.

"We've had people calling all day, and we've have to tell them that [Brady] has already come through," said ASAP executive director Maria Walker, who initially contacted me about Vanita. Her group runs the chess programs that have nurtured Vanita's love of the game.

"We don't want to be taking money for Vanita if the need has already been fulfilled."

That didn't matter for reader Paul Sevcik, who still wants to donate $20.

"I'm a former teacher," he told me. "I know how big a deal it is when kids find the motivation to really excel at something. I want to encourage that."

Brady thinks Vanita should spend surplus donation money on first-class seats to Texas and a nice hotel room.

"Let her reward herself," he said. "Why the hell not? She's a great kid. She's worked hard. She deserves it."

Knock 'em dead in Lubbock, Vanita. We're pulling for you.

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