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Englewood Chess Champs Meet President Obama

By Andrea V. Watson | October 10, 2016 12:15pm | Updated on October 10, 2016 2:49pm
 The students met President Obama on Friday.
The students met President Obama on Friday.
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Supplied/Joseph Ocol

WEST ENGLEWOOD — Five students from the Earle STEM Academy chess team met President Barack Obama while he was in Chicago over the weekend.

Team coach Joseph Ocol said he and the students had a "rare privilege of meeting President Obama" on Friday.

"We got a chance to shake his hand and talk to him for a bit, but it was breathtaking for all of us to take a close glimpse of Air Force One from where he disembarked."

RELATED: Englewood Chess Champs Deserve To Meet President Obama, Rep. Danny Davis Says

The team has gained national headlines for its success.

President Obama meets members of EARLE Stem Academy's championship chess team. [Provided/Joseph Ocol]

Despite the team getting its budget slashed as Chicago Public Schools cut budgets around the district earlier this year, they’ve still been able to bring home trophy after trophy. A GoFundMe page was created to help them with traveling costs and has raised more than $17,000 so far.

In the all-girls tournament in Chicago last spring, they competed against 64 schools from across the country. They were one of only two African-American teams. The win was the first national championship team trophy for the school.

In May, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago) started a campaign to get the students a visit with Obama.

Davis called the national championship a “great accomplishment and a great achievement.”

"Lots of folks don’t know how to play chess,” he said.  “Chess is not the easiest game in the world. We are as proud of them as we can possibly be, and we hope they will be diligent in their studies, keep on going to school, and maybe one of them will become president.”

Ocol said none of the group had ever seen Air Force One except in the movies. 

"Meeting the president, and getting a chance to shake his hand, was something that my students and I will forever cherish in our lives," he said.

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