DSC_0004_2Art class, book club, exercise group, and music therapy are just a few of the After School Programs our boys and girls can choose from at Mercy Home. These activities keep our kids active and learning after the school day is done. They help them build skills and introduce them to new passions. And sometimes they can help teach important life lessons.

You might be surprised to learn which activity has become one of the most popular. It’s chess club!

A group of boys, both younger and older, hurry home  to play. Jessica McCarthy Kelleher, our Learning Center and tutoring coordinator, has the boys begin each session with a logic puzzle, Sudoku, or a brain teaser to get their minds working. Then the games begin!

“One of the skills that we look to promote here at Mercy Home for Boys & Girls is critical thinking,” Kelleher says. “Chess is a great way to help the young men practice decision-making skills.” To win at chess, our boys need to practice thinking ahead—so they can understand the consequences of their choices. They practice being patient and thorough, too. These valuable skills help our young people far beyond their chess games.

“Chess club promotes community, teaches kids to interact positively with one another, and teaches good sportsmanship: how to play fairly, and to win and lose with grace”

Having both older and younger boys in chess club gives the older boys the chance to practice their leadership skills. They work to set a good example for the younger boys and to support them by answering their questions and giving advice. Kelleher now sees them behaving the same way outside of chess club, around the halls of Mercy Home.

“Chess club promotes community, teaches kids to interact positively with one another, and teaches good sportsmanship: how to play fairly, and to win and lose with grace,” Kelleher says.

One of the older boys, Bryan, has stood out to her. When he joined the club, he didn’t know how to play the game. But Bryan was really motivated. He learned the rules and spent time studying how the other boys made their decisions. His efforts have certainly paid off. “Now he’s one of our best players!” she says. The boys of chess club have formed a bond with one another. Chess is a difficult game. Each Wednesday afternoon, because of the special opportunities you make possible, they have the chance to rise to the challenge. And they do—in more ways than one. They practice good decision making, they mentor one another, and most of all, they have fun.

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When Abraham moved out of Mercy Home last fall, his future looked bright. He was working full-time as a third-party claims assistant and quickly earned a promotion. By all means, he could have settled into a nice routine. But something was still nagging him.

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