Ugandan Chess Champion Visits SD School

Phiona Mutesi rose from the slums and now is inspiring kids

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Gitzel Puente
    Phiona Mutesi, on stage with her coach Robert Katende, talked to the students about her beginning in the Ugandan slum of Katwe.

    16-year-old Phiona Mutesi from Kampala, Uganda is considered Africa's chess champion, the queen of Katwe, a prodigy.

    Even with her so-called fame in Africa, she had never received a big of a welcome as she did at Gompers Preparatory Academy in Chollas View.

    Clapping and cheering, more than 200 students stood by Mutesi's side as she made her way to the auditorium.

    "I'm so happy," she exclaimed with nervousness in her eyes, "This is so big. I feel excited."

    Mutesi, on stage with her coach Robert Katende, talked to the students about her beginning in the Ugandan slum of Katwe.

    "My mother didn't have much for my brother and I to grow up," Katende translated for Mutesi as she spoke about her upbringing in Luganda, Uganda's official language.

    "It was a constant struggle for my family," she said.

    That all changed one day when she stepped in the Christian charity Sports Outreach Institute where coach Katende taught chess to the slum children.

    He became her mentor and at the age of 10, Mutesi became the youngest person to win the African Chess Championship.

    For the kids at Gompers Academy, her talent and her humble background inspires them.

    "We have pretty much everything we need. We have things that she might have never seen before," eighth grader and the president of Gomper's chess club Jose Alvarez Castillo expressed, "I mean if she can do it, I can do it too."

    Sixth grader, Esmeralda Garcia, also is inspired by Mutesi's "effort" and how she rose "from the slums and became so famous."

    All Mutesi wants to accomplish with her visit in San Diego is to keep motivating these kids.

    "When the students do something, even if it's not chess, let them do it with all their heart," she added, "Let them be hard-working and have hope."

    There's a book about Mutesi's life titled, "The Queen of Katwe" by Tim Crothers. Disney is also starting to work on a movie based on the book.