Georgia Magazine - April 2022 - 38

Hometown HEROES
By Amber Lanier Nagle
Lemuel 'Life' LaRoche:
Athens man shapes youths through chess
T
wo decades ago, while a graduate student in the
University of Georgia's School of Social Work in Athens,
Lemuel " Life " LaRoche set out to change the world. He
jumped headfirst into the trenches of community and institutional
dysfunction by interning at the Jackson County Correctional
Institute in Jefferson, where the New York native helped
young men work through their anger issues using poetry, music
and art therapy.
That's when LaRoche had his revelation that, as a society,
we may have better outcomes if we reached kids before they
made the poor decisions that landed them in the juvenile justice
system, the challenge of extreme poverty or the web of drugs,
alcohol and unhealthy relationships.
" We have to steer them away from the quicksand before
they start sinking, " he says. " But how? That's when I realized that
the game of chess could be used as a metaphor for life and that
by teaching young people to play chess, I could train them to
make informed, calculated decisions when confronted with
real-world situations. I could teach kids to think five, seven, 10
moves ahead and apply those skills and strategies to life. "
He taught one boy to play chess. Then four. Then a dozen.
In 2010 or 2011, Little Italy Pizzeria in Athens welcomed
LaRoche and his growing band of 10- to 12-year-old mentees for
what was dubbed Pizza and Chess nights each month.
" We met, played chess and talked it out, " he says. " The kids
wanted more, so we started meeting weekly at the public library
and called it Open Chess Play. "
38 Georgia Magazine April 2022
Interest grew, and LaRoche's " chess plus mentoring "
experiment gained traction. In 2012, he launched Chess and
Community, a not-for-profit, volunteer-run organization that
prepares youths to lead through community engagement and
uses chess to help them learn to manage impulsive tendencies
and develop critical-thinking skills. The organization's motto is
" Think before you move. "
Each March, the organization hosts the Chess and Community
Conference, where hundreds of youths gather for chess
competitions and exchange ideas on how to solve problems and
improve the community. More than $40,000 in Think Before You
Move Scholarships have been awarded to college-bound
students who presented the most innovative ideas in front of the
conference audience.
LaRoche's vision has expanded to include programs in
Macon, metro Atlanta and Washington, D.C.
" We all possess the power to change the world, " he says.
" Can you imagine how we can transform this world if everyone
cared enough to give just a little of their time to causes that
matter? "
Amber Lanier Nagle is a freelance writer living in
Adairsville.
Learn more
For more information about Lemuel " Life " LaRoche, visit
lemuellaroche.com. To learn more about Chess and Community
or to make a donation, visit chessandcommunity.org.
UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA / PETER FREY
http://www.lemuellaroche.com http://www.chessandcommunity.org

Georgia Magazine - April 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - April 2022

Contents
Georgia Magazine - April 2022 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - April 2022 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - April 2022 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - April 2022 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - April 2022 - 4
Georgia Magazine - April 2022 - 5
Georgia Magazine - April 2022 - 6
Georgia Magazine - April 2022 - 7
Georgia Magazine - April 2022 - 8
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Georgia Magazine - April 2022 - Cover3
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