CPI student crafts Calvin chess set


Photo by Ellington Smith

Chess set crafted by CPI student, Robert

“The CPI program is like pushing my last pawn in order to recapture my queen; thus, restoring my strength,” wrote Calvin Prison Initiative (CPI) student Robert in a letter expressing his gratitude for the program turning his life around.

Robert, a second-year CPI student, spent nearly a year and a half, in addition to his studies, building a chess set that represents Calvin. During his two years enrolled in the CPI program, he has seen a community change in an uplifting way that is typically not associated with other prisons. While students do not always express their gratitude to this degree, it is not uncommon for students participating in the program to do so through projects and other art pieces.

Christina Pickett, administrative assistant of CPI, said that “these students are some of the most eager and thankful people you will ever come across.”

This elaborate showing of gratitude took a lot of time and effort for Robert to construct. Bound by some of the restrictions of the prison, he was not allowed access to certain materials, but he made do with what he had. One way he was able to uniquely construct the board was through using soaked legal pads of cardboard and compressing them to mimic wood. This and other innovative details went into creating the set.

Initially the chess set was showcased at the Spring Convocation for CPI, and afterwards it resided in the CPI office. From there it was treated as a prized treasure and lobbied to go to several locations on campus such as the president’s office. To showcase the chess set in a more prominent place for more to see it, it’s now in the main floor of Hekman Library. This has brought joy to Robert.

This chess set is a testament: “God has changed the culture of the prison through faith and education,” said Pickett. For more details on the specific construction of the board, Robert has provided a detailed list and letter concerning the makeup of the board, which is on display with the chess board on the main floor of Hekman Library.