If there’s one thing that I would do to make my mark on the sport, it would be to start a Figure Skating in Harlem chapter in Philadelphia. Providing mentorship and an avenue of self-expression and self-esteem is crucial to youth, and the ones who need it the most due to their exposure to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are the ones who have the least access to it. The gravity of the work done by this organization is great, and I don’t think simply words are enough to speak to what impact it has on kids in Harlem (and Detroit!) so before we get started, let’s dive into this TED talk by founder Sharon Cohen.
Mission: Figure Skating in Harlem helps girls transform their lives and grow in confidence, leadership and academic achievement.Figure Skating in Harlem’s website
Population: Girls 6-18 residing in Harlem, upper Manhattan, the lower Bronx, or Detroit
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Harlem is not your typical neighborhood to find a bunch of figure skaters. Figure skating is not a sport you find many people of color in, and if you’ve ever paid for a month of private lessons and a pair of competitive skates you know why: it’s expensive. These neighborhoods are lower income, predominantly African-American, and have a long history of ACEs that have high correlations of lower achieved levels of education, involvement with crime, and health conditions. By giving these neighborhoods the opportunity to help prepare young girls for adulthood, Figure Skating in Harlem promotes equity for black girls in New York City and Detroit to succeed as well as their non-black cohort.
The objectives for students in the Figure Skating in Harlem model are to develop skills and education, possess confidence, and be able to make healthy choices among a slew of other great skills young girls need. The students get placed into Learn To Skate levels based on age and level where they learn skating skills, and they also participate in off-ice activities once a week. FSH isn’t just a physical fitness program, as students also sit for educational activities ranging from college prep to study skills. As if that wasn’t enough, the students also get a chance to learn leadership skills and experience cultural trips. I could go on and on about this program, but in a nutshell, it’s the best after-school (and summer!) program on the block.
I’m not the only fan of FSH; the program has been championed by Meryl Davis, half of the notable Olympic ice dance team who took the gold in Sochi in 2014. Davis has attended the annual gala for over a decade and now co-chairs the Detroit chapter. Other notable Olympians who’ve attended this gala include Maia and Alex Shibutani, Michelle Kwan, Karen Chen, Nathan Chen, and Paul Wylie. Have I mentioned this organization is the only one with a program like this AND do it extremely well?
I can’t say it enough how much I’m glad this exists. That girls of color from low-income communities can get the opportunity to participate in such an expensive but transformative sport, perform in front of engaged audiences, and receive support to build a strong foundation that will set them up for the rest of their life. If there was any organization I’d quit my job today for, it would be to work with the amazing team that has forged this process along for all these years.
Ways you can help
As with any organization, a little goes a long way, and there are so many more kids who could use this amazing program!
Turn your midnight shopping adventures into a donation without having to do anything or spend extra money but register this organization in Amazon Smile!
As a coach or tutor, or if you have expertise in careers, financial literacy, fitness & nutrition, study skills and more, you can also host a workshop!
Question of the Day!
What’s a hobby you wish you could have done when you were a kid? Other than figure skating, I really wished I could have done gymnastics!