Chess dominated student’s mind, then changed his life

Dominique Myers hopes to help other at-risk youngsters discover the game, set new path
By Lauren Bailey
Posted: Monday, Mar. 19, 2012

If it weren’t for a classic board game, Dominique Myers’ life might be headed down an entirely different, dangerous path. But, says Myers, a 20-year old Charlotte native, he discovered chess at age 7 – and has never turned back.

Myers was raised in Charlotte by his grandparents, as his young mother could not care for him. He says his grandparents were good influences, but he still was intimately associated with gang life by age 10. Gang members sought him out, he says, finding it easy to share problems with the calm and compassionate Myers.

Yet he says he was not involved in a gang when he entered high school at Independence High – because he spent so much time playing chess, online or by himself.

The work paid off: In 2007, the Charlotte Chess Club noted that no member “has ever risen so high (so) quickly as 15-year-old Dominique Myers!” and called him “a sparkling diamond.” He had asked the club director to be paired with challenging players, and nearly doubled his rating in one season, winning the club’s player of the year award in his class and the entire club’s most improved player award.

He won his section of the U.S. Chess Federation national tournament that year, his freshman year, and chess became more than a game: It was his ticket to a better life.

Sophomore year, Myers says, he was sought after to join a new gang. But chess continued to dominate his time. Friends discouraged the idea. Unlike many of his peers, Myers saw the glimmer of a bright future. He believed he would get a ride to college, thanks to his chess skills.

“From my side of town, you have to have something you’re good at to stay out of trouble,” Myers said. “For me, though, it was a double-edged sword. I used chess as my excuse for not studying, because I thought I’d get a scholarship, and my GPA dropped really low. In the end, chess almost prevented me from getting into school.”

Meanwhile, Marilynn Chadwick, wife of Forest Hill Church pastor David Chadwick, heard about Myers’ chess success from a neighbor. She was interested, and called him in December 2009, in his senior year.

“I was in my low point because I thought I wasn’t going to college or anything,” Myers said.

During the phone call, they got to know one another and Chadwick mentioned Myers may be a good candidate for a scholarship through a program called Seeds of Hope.

In April, she called back and asked what school he hoped to attend. With his grades too low for most schools, Myers felt out of options. He said he’d heard Liberty University was nice. A few hours later, Chadwick called back and said the deadline was the next day, but if he did everything he needed to do, he would have a shot at attending college. He applied, was accepted, then found out: He was the next Seeds of Hope scholar.

Seeds of Hope – Empowering Dreamers was started in 1996 by Chadwick and Michele Dudley to provide domestic and international scholarships and sponsorships, leadership camps, holistic training conferences and economic empowerment to under-resourced communities. Myers’ scholarship would offer a total of $20,000 over four years toward his education.

With additional scholarship money and loans, Myers attended the private Christian college in Virginia. He says he tried to resist the religious aspect at first, but says a powerful dream and an incident in which he convinced a gang member to turn himself in and get on a better path changed his mind.

During the summer before college, Myers volunteered with Nexus, an inner-city Charlotte ministry associated with Forest Hill, teaching free chess classes to children. He loved every minute. When home on vacation, his bright smile and energy are a standard presence at Forest Hill.

Myers is a sophomore pre-med major. He says he’d like to be a general practitioner, so he can talk to people and help them in mind as well as body. He also continues to compete in chess tournaments with high-level competition, and shared first place in his section at the 2011 N.C. Open.

“If I were in the NBA,” he says for context, “I wouldn’t be Kobe Bryant, but I’d be on the team.”

Myers says he plans to volunteer at the church this summer, and he and a chess player friend are trying to put together a chess camp for kids.

“If they can see there is more to life than what they are living, that’s what will make them want to do something different.”


Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar