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posted: Mon, Mar 20th, 2017
Showing off the chess club's awards with school principal Kevin Moore are: Ryan Ciafullo, Karthik Menon, Sampath Sajja, Saanvi Borra and Ananya Puligortha

Chess club wins awards at tournament

CMS chess club members took home trophies in the New Jersey State Elementary Championships held at Brookdale College in Lincroft, New Jersey. Individual 4th place awards went to both Ryan Ciafullo (first grade category) and Saanvi Borra (second grade). They also combined to finish fourth as a team in the K-3 division with third-grader Karthik Menon and second-grader Sampath Sajja. About 75 K-3 students participated.

Mount Olive Middle School student Vaibhavi Borra, a former CMS student and chess club member, won first place in the sixth grade category.

"I am so happy, they did great," said chess club adviser N.T. Koumari. "They work hard every meeting to get better and better." 

The state championship tournament lasted nearly seven hours. Students played five rounds each and received ratings for their games. Individual trophies were given out based on the point total. The top four scores for the team members were added together and represented the team score.

A team consisting of Vaibhavi, MOMS seventh-grader Rahul Swaminathan, and Saanvi received a plaque for being the top team with a rating under 1000 in the 2017 World Amateur Team East tournament. This competition was held in February and was not restricted to schools; it was an open event in which anyone could participate.

There are 32 students in the CMS chess club. The club is divided into three sections based on the skill level of the members; each section meets once per week. An optional weekend practice is held weekly at the Mount Olive Public Library.

The students have their sights set on their next tournament, the U.S. Amateur K-8 East, which will be held in Morristown in May.

Tony Giuliani and Sana Anwar, fifth-graders in the G & T art program, on the buddy bench they helped paint

A new way to spread kindness

In a recent schoolwide assembly, CMS unveiled a new way to spread kindness.

Three buddy benches, made by Budd Lake Boy Scout Troop #249, were introduced and their purpose explained: Sitting on a buddy bench during recess is a way for kids to indicate that they're looking for friends to play with or want to meet and get to know someone new.

Students were encouraged to reach out to anyone seated on a buddy bench and engage him or her in an activity. In this way, buddy benches help ensure that everyone is having fun and interacting with their peers.

"This is another way to motivate our students to make some social connections, all while placing kindness in the middle of that interaction," said Ann Scotland, a member of the school's Kindness Committee which spearheaded the initiative. (The committee is comprised of teachers dedicated to encouraging acts of kindness and positive character traits.)

The assembly built school spirit and emphasized the importance of kindness. At various moments during the ceremony, music teacher Lisa King led the students in song. This included singing the school song as well as "Rainbow Connection" and "The Power of One."

Also featured in the ceremony was a kindness video created by parent Melissa Smitreski. The video included kids talking about what kindness means to them as well as more candid moments that capture daily life in the building. The entire school community was represented including staff, administration, support staff, and bus drivers.

CMS students in the gifted and talented art program, under the direction of art teacher Denise Palmisano, painted the three wooden benches with brightly colored designs. The benches will be set in concrete when they are installed in a few weeks.


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Chester M. Stephens Elementary School
99 Sunset Drive Budd Lake, NJ 07828
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