If you were to ask who Joshua Colas is, you might get one of a variety of answers. The 16 year-old high school junior from White Plains, NY is the son of Guy and Yanick Colas, both originally born in Haiti. Josh is the brother of a younger sister named Chellsie and an older brother named Korey. He’s a basketball and keyboard player who hopes to study accounting in college and, by the way, to become the youngest African-American chess grandmaster of all time.
Joshua’s goal is the latest in a series of incredible accomplishments, many of which he’s already been able to check off his “to-do” list. It was after becoming the youngest African-American chess master in history at the age of 12 that Josh began to set his sights on someday rocking “grandmaster” status. The NY teen seems well on his way to the impressive feat after nailing first place at the national chess championship earlier this December for the second year in a row.
His family, who stand behind their son 100%, have started an Indiegogo campaign in order to help their son raise the money needed to cover tournament fees, as well as the price of travel. They explain that although Josh’s college funds are already secured by a variety of full scholarship offers, attaining chess grandmaster status involves more expense than one might initially expect. In order to qualify, Joshua will need to compete in a series of tournaments, some of which take place in Europe. With 19 days to go, the family has raised about 46% of the funds needed to help Josh secure his place in the history books and remain hopeful that supporters will help them reach their goal.
“You have to pay a month’s hotel fees, and travel, and the entrance fee,” Mr. Colas recently explained. “It’s just to a point now — that’s why I’m asking for people to help me, because he’s just too talented to let it go to waste. He really wants it, and he has the ability. So I’m hoping by some luck, someone sees him and says, you know what, let me spring for this kid.”
Joshua’s dad also stresses however, that his son’s goal isn’t all about personal victory. “He wants to be the role model for all these other kids from poor neighborhoods everywhere, to understand that chess is not only for the rich kids and for the smartest kids,” Mr. Colas said. “He wants to show, if you work hard enough, you can reach the top level.”
As if Joshua’s goal wasn’t already impressive enough, the possibility of his success becomes perhaps even more exciting in light of it’s rarity. Only one other African-American in history, a gentleman named Maurice Ashley, has ever achieved chess grandmaster status. Such a young contender for the title is unheard of, as Ashley was 34 years-old when he achieved the rank.
Joshua’s continued success, not only as a chess champion but also as an extraordinary young man, is no doubt due in part to the stellar example set by his parents. “I’m just as happy when he loses a game as when he wins a game,” Josh’s dad recently said. “I understand the game. I know how difficult it is. So when he loses, I try to make him realize that that’s part of it. That’s the road. Chess is a life-long lesson.”
Indeed it is, and one this young man is lucky to travel in the company of such outstanding family and friends.