A homeless 8-year-old boy took first place at the New York State chess championship for his age group.
“It’s unheard of for any kid, let alone one in a homeless shelter,” Russell Makofsky, who runs Manhattan's P.S. 116 chess program, told USA TODAY.
Tanitoluwa Adewumi, who goes by Tani, won the New York State Scholastic Championships for students from kindergarten to third grade. “I want to be the youngest grandmaster,” he told The New York Times.
In 2017, Tanitoluwa and his family fled Nigeria in fear of anti-Christian persecution and moved to New York City, where they live in a homeless shelter. The boy learned how to play chess at school early last year, and school chess coach Shawn Martinez quickly noticed the Tanitoluwa’s talent. When Martinez learned that Tanitoluwa's family was unable to pay the costs of the school chess program, Makofsky decided to give Tanitoluwa a spot in the program for free.The costs can easily exceed thousands of dollars with travel and chess camp fees.
Other figures Tanitoluwa’s life are eager to help the chess prodigy achieve his ambitions. A student gave him a chess clock as a gift. His mom takes him to free, three-hour practice sessions in Harlem. And his father lets him play chess online with a laptop. Now, with seven trophies under his belt, Tanitoluwa is one of the most promising chess players in the country.
Makofsky set up a GoFundMe for Tanitoluwa, and as the story reaches national headlines, the family has received offers for a car, jobs, and even housing.