It is always a pleasure to celebrate the achievements of dynamic, young women like Rochelle Ballanytne; the child prodigy whose story was prominently featured in the documentary Brooklyn Castle. This documentary examined how Rochelle, along with a few select students from IS 318 in Brooklyn, excelled at chess. What is even more compelling, Rochelle is the only female chess player featured in the film. Here is the official trailer for you to watch.
On November 8, 2012, Huffington Post Teen recapped an interview Rochelle granted to Teen Vogue. I was impressed with the tone and substance of the interview. It is clear that she is a poised and gracious young lady. I am even more proud of the fact that she was raised in Brooklyn by a single mother from Trinidad. She was also greatly influenced by her grandmother who was a teacher. These strong women clearly equipped Rochelle to excel on a larger platform. A few weeks after the article in Teen Vogue, she was a guest on The Melissa Harris Perry Show. Here is the link to the interview. I encourage you to take a look when you have a moment.
Rochelle’s grandmother introduced her to chess when she was in the third grade. By the time she reached the fifth grade, Rochelle had won her 1st National Tournament and placed 4th at the Girl’s National Championship. After these two impressive victories, she began to see herself excelling as a chess player. Her goal – to become the first African-American female chess master! How awesome it must be to know exactly what you want to do at such a young age.
Rochelle gives full credit to her grandmother for planting the seed in her mind. As we know, the road to success is not easy at any age; particularly when you are young. There are so many things, and people, competing for your attention. When asked how she stays focused, she admitted that there were times when this goal seemed elusive to her. However, when her grandmother passed, she was even more committed to this dream.
Once Brooklyn Castle was released, Rochelle’s life was front and center. She was happy to see how everything came together, but I also imagine there were days when she missed her privacy. She admits to feeling emotionally burdened at times, however she drew strength from each victory.
After graduating from IS 318 she went to Brooklyn Tech High School, where she continued to excel in her studies and chess. With the help of a full scholarship, Rochelle is completing her freshman year as a student at Stanford University in California. This is truly a tribute to her drive, commitment and focus.
Brooklyn Legends is proud of Rochelle, and we are excited to be on this journey with her. We also congratulate her mother On this accomplishment. We will continue to update you on her progress.
Have a great day!
Jan. 6, 2014 article by Doyle Murphy, “Brooklyn Chess star battles the pressure of expectations,” New York Daily News
Nov. 8, 2012 Huff Post Teen reprint of Teen Vogue interview
Jan. 30, 2013 article by Nicholas Kristof, “Meet The Champs,” New York Times
Rochelle Ballantyne via The Chess Drum
Rochelle Ballantyne via Wikipedia.org