I've been involved in scholastic chess for many years and have seen the benefits of seeing chess promoted in the schools. I was a coach and trainer at Alexander Central High School in Taylorsville, NC, and it won the state championship three years in a row when I was involved there. I also coached and trained Jordy Mont-Reynaud and Vinay Bhat, and they became the nation's youngest masters at 10, while being involved in the Palo Alto Chess Club in California as junior players and playing in lots of tournaments.
It seems that all the active junior chess players did well in school. Joe Zachary, first board at Alexander Central in the little town of Taylorville, NC went on to MIT and got a PhD. Jordy attended Stanford. Vinay became an international master at 16 and has several grandmaster norms. He attended UC Berkeley.
Chess helps you to concentrate better. You can focus on a problem better and look for mutliple solutions or the best solution. Chess makes you a better observer. Chess helps you visualize problems better. Chess teaches patience. The better players do not make the first move they think of. They have patience to find even a better move or make sure the first move thought abot is the best move. Chess players are able the think ahead better. In chess, you think first, then act after careful thought. Chess teaches you to look at alternatives and consider the pros and cons of the choices (candiate moves in chess) being though about. Chess is good in pattern recognition and it does help train the memory to work better. You don't need the best memory to play chess, you need solid logic and how to analyze correctly. There are social benefits to chess. There are organized clubs and tournaments. Ideally, kids are taught about sportsmanship and how to win or lose graciously. For kids with talent, there is increased motivation to get better and study more, with books or a coach or even with computer databases nowadays.
Independent studies show that kids involved in chess do better in math and reading skills. Visual memory, attention span, and spatial reasonin skills are all improved in children involved in chess.
So what's it take to start a scholastic chess club. Well, you need players and volunteers. Ideally, the volunteers are chess players themselves who have been involved in organized chess. Many times, parent or teacher volunteers do not know how to play chess or know how to organize a chess club. There may be someone in the community who has been involved in chess and would volunteer in a school, but that person may not know about a school chess club. I found out about one elementary school chess club that I volunteered to help after one of my students in tennis (I am also a tennis coach) told me about his chess club in his school. I then volunteered for several years getting the school club started and introducing the kids to local clubs and tournaments.
You also need chess equipment. You need chess sets and boards, and if you can afford it, chess clocks. Chess sets and boards can be cheap and found in most stores or online. Many of the kids may have chess sets of their own or get borrow one from the parents if there is a chess set in the home. Chess clocks would be nice, and they can be more expensive and harder to get.
You need a place to play chess. I have seen chess played in the school library or cafeteria or school classroom after school hours. Also look for chess clubs around the area or perhaps at one of the homes of a volunteer or one of the kids.
If you can raise money, then you can fund for trophies, travel to tournaments, entry fees, even a letter for the school jacket if it is approved like a sport.
You are never too young to play chess. The younger, the better. And let the girls play, too. There are more and more girls participating in chess tournaments. It is no longer a boy's or men's game.
And it is not just for nerds. Chesplayers include: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, Nicholas Cage, Madonna, Kareen Abdul-Jabbar, Bono, Sting, Roger Federer, Laurence Fishburne, Michael J Fox, Jamie Foxx, Chris Rock, Anna Kournikova, Jude Law, David Letterman, LL COOL J, Keanu Reeves, Julia Roberts, Kate Jackson, David Lee Roth, Barry Sanders, Tom Selleck, Brooke Shields, Will Smith, Kevin Spacey, and Evander Holyfield among others. I listed a lot more celebrities and famous people who played chess in a book called Chess for Success, by Maurice Ashley. This is an excellent book for scholastic chess players, along with Searching for Bobby Fischer, by Fred Waitzkin. I recommend these two books for the scholastic player.
Here are some scholastic chess links:
http://www.af4c.org/club/scripts/public/public.asp?ns=public - America's Foundation for Chess
http://aschess.org/ - American Scholastic Chess Federation
http://www.chessintheschools.org/ - Chess in the Schools
http://www.chesskids.com/ - ches kids academy
http://www.chessmates.org/ - Chess Mates Foundation
http://www.chess-math.org/ - Chess 'n Math
http://www.thechessacademy.org/Resources_for_Educators.htm - chess for educators
http://www.amchesseq.com/Guide/2003SCguide.pdf - A Guide to Scholastic Chess
http://www.chessctr.org/ - US Chess Center
http://www.geocities.com/chess_camp/index.html - USCF Scholastic Council
http://www.usscholasticchess.org/ - US Scholastic Chess