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Meet de Laurence Burnes of The Knight School Dallas

Today we’d like to introduce you to de Laurence Burnes.

de Laurence, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I graduated from Auburn University in 2009 with a degree in International Business/Spanish and with a concentration in Entrepreneurship. This was during the “recession” and it was so hard to find a job so I did a real estate internship, the summer after graduation, in Gulf Shores, Alabama. I really liked it but I didn’t feel like it was the right place for me so I moved back home to Birmingham, Alabama. I spent time looking for a job, traveling, and I also created a food blog at this time. I love food and I was trying to follow my passion but this passion wasn’t bringing me any money and I had an elaborate business degree that I wanted to use.

So one day I happened to be in Costco and I ran into my high school world history teacher. We chatted and he asked me if I wanted to teach kids how to play chess. I told him I would be interested but I didn’t know how to play chess. He told me that was fine because I would learn from the program and the kids, therefore, after some thought I decided to accept the job. Once I started with The Knight School, I endured a week or two of taunting by second and third graders because I didn’t know how to play the game and they said: “how are you going to be our chess coach, and you don’t even know how to play chess”. These words kicked me into overdrive and I learned really fast.

During my first year with The Knight School I was a “chess coach”, my second year I was a “chess coach” and I also helped with the financial, accounting, and clerical side of the business. After visiting a friend in Dallas in 2012, I knew that I wanted to move here and I was ready to start looking for jobs in the Dallas area. I told my old boss that I wanted to move to Dallas and that I would be leaving The Knight School. He was happy for me but he did not want me to stop working for the company and he asked me if I wanted to bring The Knight School to Dallas and running it would be my job. I was not expecting him to give me this opportunity, however, when he offered me this new role, I was excited because I knew that I was prepared since I had worked in all aspects of the company; yet I was a little nervous. Furthermore, I accepted this opportunity and moved to Dallas in July 2013.

When I arrived in Dallas, no one knew what The Knight School was and I had to start everything from scratch. I had a few feelings of doubt but I knew that this is an excellent program and I believed in it and I believed in myself. Through lots of hard work, research, and determination I started to get Dallas area schools to be a part of The Knight School network. In 2014, a year after I moved to Dallas, my old boss decided to start franchising the company and he asked me to buy the Dallas Franchise; however, I declined because I did not feel like I was ready to own my own company.

In 2016, my old boss asked me again if I wanted to buy the Dallas Franchise, for The Knight School, and I did not hesitate to accept because I loved the job and I was basically already running the company in Dallas. I also remembered that this would give me a chance to put my college degree to use. So I bought the Dallas franchise and here I am 3 years later, growing The Knight School Dallas and still passionately loving my job!

Has it been a smooth road?
In May 2015, I decided that I wanted to work in “Corporate America” so I stopped working for The Knight School and I got a job working in IT Recruiting. My new job was stressful, things were not making sense to me, and I honestly did not feel like I was making a difference in people’s lives. My old boss called me that August and asked if I was enjoying my new job and I said “No!” He asked me to come back and work with The Knight School and I gladly accepted. This time around I was recharged and refreshed, and I discovered that I had a new found love for teaching kids. I also realized how much I like watching the light bulbs go off in their heads, and how much passion I have for exposing kids to the game of chess.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with The Knight School Dallas – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
The Knight School Dallas brings our chess program into scores of schools each week. During our allotted weekly chess time, we initiate a unique, party-based, kid-focused, high-octane approach to help kids learn chess. We have fun movies, exciting driving music that accompanies our challenging chess puzzlers for candy prizes, our colorful silicone wristbands system in which each color connotes mastery of a different chess tactic, and daily chess tournaments where we actually play for each other’s Mardi Gras beads! Laughter and friends and silliness abound. The long, boring chess clocks, awkward required silence, mandatory chess notation, and friendless chess tournaments of our grandfathers’ generation are gone!

The Knight School Dallas has various programs for all ages of kids. Little Geniuses is for 3-5 year olds, The Knight School is for 6-12 year olds, Varsity Chess is for 6-17 year olds, and most of our summer camps are for 3-12 year olds. This summer I will be hosting our first ever Pink Geniuses All Girls chess camp on July 1-3, 2019, I am very excited about this because it has been a goal of mine since I moved to Dallas.

I’m proud that I can help kids get smarter and that I can have a party while doing it! Chess enhances critical thinking/strategy/logic skills, helps kids get higher SAT/ACT scores, gives them confidence and does so much more. Our logo is “completing the perfect childhood” and everything that The Knight School Dallas does strive to make this statement a reality.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Dallas is amazing to me and I love it! I like that this is a growing city that is inclusive to everyone and it is filled with all kinds of diversity. At least once a week I like to explore a new restaurant, with friends, and I’ll post about my experiences on Instagram. Another thing that I like to do is shop, for clothes, and I feel like Dallas gives me plenty of stores to choose from. Lastly, I enjoy being a jet setter so I like that Dallas has two airports that allow me to fly almost anywhere that I can think of going.

I like many aspects of Dallas, but since it is so spread out, I wish that DART had more stops next to trendy, significant, and relevant places throughout the metroplex. Honestly, I don’t feel like driving sometimes!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Kauwuane Burton (only a few of the photos)

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