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Students tell their stories: A chess expert nearly lost to the system

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia. In researching our edition on "boosting graduation rates for all," the Notebook interviewed young people who had dropped out and were now reengaging in school. We asked why they left, why they returned, and what obstacles they face. Some described heartbreaking personal situations and herculean struggles. But all displayed hope and optimism about their futures. They were all eager to tell their stories.

Isaiah Johnson, 18, loved playing chess, but had problems in middle school — he said he was easily distracted and had a bad temper. He bounced from cyber education to a small Christian academy before finding his way to YouthBuild, where he has found support and set life and career goals. "When I came to YouthBuild, I stopped failing," he said. He plans to continue his education to pursue construction and graphic arts.

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