Connections Academy and University of Maryland, Baltimore County's (UMBC) Renowned Chess Club, Announce Partnership that will give Students the Opportunity to Hone Chess Skills with Chess Masters

Partnership will Provide Challenging, Fun, Environment for Connections Academy Students to Hone Chess Skills with Chess Masters; Launch Event Pairs Eleven Year Old Student with University Grand Master

Baltimore, MD, August 21, 2008 – Connections Academy, the Baltimore-based, national provider of virtual public schools announced today a partnership with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s (UMBC) award-winning Chess Club. The new partnership offers Connections Academy students the opportunity to learn about chess from UMBC faculty, students and Chess Grand Masters, who will provide interactive instruction and be able to observe student games and offer constructive feedback and pointers.

UMBC is one of the top college chess powers in the world and consistently beats Ivy League teams in international tournaments. UMBC is one of very few U.S. universities to offer full scholarships for chess. UMBC earned a place in college chess history by winning the Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship – the “World Series” of college chess – for a record-breaking seventh time in 2006. UMBC's Chess Team won its fourth straight President's Cup or “Final Four” of college chess in 2006. In 2007, the team took first place in the College Chess League tournament.

“Chess has been such an important part of the culture at UMBC,” said Greg Simmons, interim vice president of institutional advancement at UMBC. “We’re excited that our players will help teach younger students how the mental focus and determination needed for chess can also prepare them well for other future challenges.”

In November, 2007, Connections Academy launched its cutting-edge, proprietary online chess club and game software geared towards students in an academic setting. The software offers interactive tutorials, “possible move” options, the opportunity to chat with instructors and opponents, as well as the ability to play chess with fellow students from across the country. The Connections Academy Chess Club quickly became one of the most popular school clubs -- over 450 students have played 2200 games to date.

To celebrate the UMBC partnership, Connections Academy has invited its 2008 Chess Club champion, eleven year old Oregon Connections Academy student, Jonathan G. Yau, to Baltimore to play chess with UMBC chess International Grand Champion, Leo Kritz. Games will take place on Thursday, August 21st at 3:00 pm at UMBC and will be followed by a reception. The event is free and open to the public.

“The numerous educational benefits of chess are well-researched and documented and we are delighted to partner with UMBC’s powerhouse chess team to help our students get the most out of the game,” commented Barbara Dreyer, President and CEO of Connections Academy. “From problem solving and abstract reasoning to self-confidence and analysis, we are confident that these unique educational experiences will not only contribute to our students’ academic success, but will cultivate life-long chess enthusiasts.”

Connections Academy is a leading national operator of high-quality, tuition-free, highly accountable virtual public schools. Serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the school serves a wide range of students, including those who are significantly ahead or behind in the classroom; students who benefit from highly individualized instruction; or who want a flexible school schedule. The school also appeals to previously home-schooled students and students who, for a variety of reasons, are better served outside the traditional classroom.

Connections Academy virtual public schools combine state-certified teachers, a standards-aligned curriculum, unique technology tools, an extensive selection of clubs and community experiences to create an individualized alternative to the bricks-and-mortar classroom.

About Connections Academy
Connections Academy is a leading national provider of high quality, highly accountable virtual public schools in thirteen states operated in partnership with charter schools, school districts, and state departments of education. Connections Academy schools deliver top quality, personalized education for students that combines certified teachers, a proven curriculum, technology tools, and community experiences to create a supportive and successful environment for children who want an individualized approach to education. In Connections Academy’s unique Personalized Performance Learning® approach, students use daily lesson plans and curriculum materials provided by Connections Academy. Teachers develop a learning plan for each student, whose progress is tracked through a proprietary, web-based Learning Management System. In 2008-09 Connections Academy will serve students in Arizona, California (Southern and Central), Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Minnesota, Missouri (through the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program), Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wisconsin. In 2008-09 Connections Academy will offer grades K through 12, though some schools do not offer all grades. For more information, call 800-382-6010 or visit