Monday, December 29, 2014

Vanita Makes Us Proud

A Texas-sized cheer to chess whiz Vanita Young, who just nabbed herself a $40,000 scholarship to Texas Tech University, following her brilliant performance at this week's Susan Polgar Girls' [Chess] Invitational in Lubbock, TX.

Vanita Makes Us Proud

Vanita Young (left) presents a Philly-style chess T-shirt this week to chess master Susan Polgar at the big competition in Lubbock, TX.
Vanita Young (left) presents a Philly-style chess T-shirt this week to chess master Susan Polgar at the big competition in Lubbock, TX.

A Texas-sized cheer to chess whiz Vanita Young, who just nabbed herself a $40,000 scholarship to Texas Tech University, following her brilliant performance at this week's Susan Polgar Girls' [Chess] Invitational in Lubbock, TX.

GO, Vanita!

Readers of my column will recall that I wrote in June how Vanita, a rising senior at the Walter D. Palmer Charter School, beat out 600 other girls from Pennsylvania to represent the state at the annual invitational, named for Polgar, the world's first female chess grand master. Up for grabs was $120,000 worth of scholarships to the three top winners of the five-day competition, which was to be held July 24-29.

The tragedy was, Vanita couldn't afford the $2,000 it would cost to send her and a chaperone to the event. Vanita's background is heartbreaking, to say the least. Abandoned by her mom at age 2, orphaned by her dad's death in 2007, she lives with her grandparents and money is tight.  She uses chess (to which she was introduced by the After Schools Activities Partnership - ASAP) as a way to feel happy when the sadness of her circumstances overwhelm her.

When it looked like money owes would keep her from he Polgar tournament, Vanita's mentors at ASAP -  contacted me for help. I wrote Vanita's story and - no surprise, given the legendary generoity of Daily News readers - the money was raised within 24 hours.

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady kicked in the $2,000, and other big-hearted Samaritans ponied up over $1,600-plus. (The extra money went into a new fund to support the very active chess program at Vanita's high school, to help defray costs of tournament fees and travel to events.)

And this week in texas, Vanita did not disappointthose who believed in her enough to support her. Today, it was announced that she performed the ebst among girls in her age group - and that netted her a $40,000 scholarhsip to Texas Tech.  Vanita wnats very much to attend the school - to study compute rscience and continue playing chess under the mentorship of Polgar herself.

"We are thrilled," says Maria Walker, ASAP's executive director. "No one is more deserving than Vanita."

But without the kindness of Daily News readers, it's safe to say she never would've gotten on the plane to Texas.

Thanks, one and all. Vanita is on her way.

Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
About this blog

When my phone rings here at the Daily News, nine times out of ten the caller begins the conversation with, “Yeah, so what happened was…”.

Because this is Philly, the caller doesn’t say, “My name is Bob” – or Mary – “and I wonder if I could have a moment of your time?” Philadelphians are too direct for that. They just say, “Yeah, so what happened was…”, and then tumble into a tale they think oughta be shared with a wider audience. I love getting these calls (even the ones where it becomes clear, after 30 seconds, where the caller sowed the seeds of his own misery), because they give me chance to connect with fellow citizens in a way that no other job allows. Well, okay, no other job for which I’m remotely qualified.

That’s why my blog is titled “So What Happened Was…”. To me, it’s the quintessentially Philly way of saying, “Once upon a time.” When I hear it, I know a good story is coming. And I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Ronnie Polaneczky has been an award-winning columnist for The Philadelphia Daily News since 1999, offering a front-steps perspective on every aspect of city life, from the sublime to the stupid. In her past life, she was the editor-in-chief of Atlantic City Magazine, associate editor at Philadelphia Magazine and a fulltime freelancer published in Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Reader's Digest, Men's Health, MarieClaire and others. She lives with her husband, daughter and various pets in the city's Fairmount section, where she dreams of one day singing The National Anthem at an Eagles game. In addition to her column and blog, you can enjoy Ronnie's musings in podcast form here.


Read more from Ronnie Polaneczky at Earth to Philly, the Daily News blog on anything and everything "Green Reach Ronnie at polaner@phillynews.com.

Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
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