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Bronx Students Learn To 'Build Up Bridges' Through Chess Tournament

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Students in the Bronx are building up bridges one chess match at a time.

They're taking part in a tournament that's helping them develop a better mindset – teaching them decision-making, after they had a rough year.

He may have good sportsmanship, but all Christian Moreno wants to do right now is win his chess game. The high school junior loves the game and knows it's teaching him to concentrate more, which will come in handy in the future. He wants to be a paleontologist after college.

"Helps strengthen my mind, because in chess you have to do a lot of different strategic moves," he said.

Moreno cherishes a fun day like this. He was in the classroom last September when a classmate allegedly stabbed two others, killing one. The Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation he attended will close, because almost all the students didn't re-enroll.

"People just trying to get through it with different things. Some people got through it a lot faster than others, some are still a little bit more hurt," he said.

Many of the students were there Thursday at one of their last school trips together, playing chess against kids at another school – the Academy for Scholarship and Entrepreneurship.

"I feel like it will help everyone. It helps you focus on something that's not about that," said ninth grader Michael Medina.

"The students need to see that they matter, that they can get involved in something that's positive," Assistant Principal Rufina Belthrop said.

The man behind the "Building up Bridges" chess tournament is Romeo Davis, an instructor from the Young Kings and Queens Chess Club.

"A lot of kids feel that the strongest weapon is in their hand. But if they really think about it, the strongest weapon is in their head," he said.

He said after-school activities, like chess clubs and mentoring programs, help teenagers reach their true potential and stay away from violence.

"This type of platform makes them invested in the next level, it builds up their self-esteem, their life skills, makes them be more disciplined and let them know that somebody cares about them," he said.

A number of the students still don't know where they will go to school next year, but events like this help them know they won't be alone.

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