Can-do kid


Jennifer Gilbert


4 questions

What do you want to be when you grow up?

An architect

What is your favorite food?

Meatloaf and spaghetti

What is your weird talent?

I don’t really have one. (Editor’s note: Being good at chess in middle school at least counts as unique.)

Who inspires you and why?

My grandma because she always comes to my house and always plays chess. She comes because she likes playing with me.

While video games and computers are popular activities for many middle schoolers, 13-year-old Estrella Puente prefers to play chess. She started playing around age 5 thanks to lessons from her grandmother and the two have played ever since.

"She used to win, but I mostly beat her now," says Estrella. "When we were little if I had at least one chess piece she’d give me a dime."

Estrella’s siblings don’t share her interest in chess, though, and sometimes tease her for playing such an adult game.

"I just ignore them and keep on playing, but my grandma sometimes scolds them," she says.

When her grandmother went on a trip to Mexico two years ago, Estrella didn’t have anyone else to play chess with, so she started joining local chess tournaments and is now a member of the chess team at her school, De La Cruz Math, Science and Technology Academy in Chicago. During her first tournament of last school year, she won all of her matches and came away with the best record at the meet. She later moved on to the citywide and state finals, winning two of five matches at the final competition. Although she didn’t come away undefeated, she certainly held her own against students her age and older.

Throughout all of her competitions, Estrella’s grandmother has been there to help and encourage her.

"I could never make it to the meets, but her grandma was very confident in her and supportive," says Estrella’s mom, Lilian.

Even though she doesn’t necessarily share her daughter’s passion, Lilian is proud of her daughter and encourages her to continue.

"It’s definitely a good thing. It expands her knowledge of thinking when she has to think how to make the move," she says, adding that Estrella also maintains good grades at school.

Even though the new chess season hasn’t started yet, Estrella plans to play again as a seventh-grader. After all, she says winning is her favorite part of the game and you can’t win if you don’t play.

Do you know a great kid age 14 and under who’s done something amazing? E-mail names and information to [email protected].



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