Diversify Ice Foundation: Organization Highlight

Though it’s hard to talk about, it’s hard to ignore: ethnic diversity is pretty weak in the figure skating world. I’m often the only non-white person on the ice, and while I’m used to it as a graduate from a private university, it can be particularly intimidating for people who aren’t usually in that kind of environment. Diversity isn’t just a political agenda; it enables the expansion and evolution of every entity in which it exists.

That’s where Diversify Ice Foundation comes in. Imagine hearing new music, seeing new, innovative choreography, and seeing less political judging with the propagation of a more diverse skating community. These are only a few things that came up in my enlightening conversation with Joel Savary.

As a young figure skater in Miami and brother to Emmanuel Savary, who placed 11th in the Men’s Free Skate event at the 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Joel noticed he was the only African-American on the ice. It became particularly noticeable at competitions, and realized that the cost of the sport was a huge factor.

With his new project to foster equity in the sport, Joel hopes that Diversify Ice can help create a community for those at the top where diversity is slim, as well as in the lower levels so that those individuals can achieve as much as they are capable of without finances or social pressures holding them back.

Our mission is to provide sponsorship, mentorship, networks, and opportunities to underrepresented figure skaters, so that they are able to achieve their fullest potential in the sport and in life.

Diversify Ice Foundation website

Population: Ethnic minorities of all ages

If you’ve ever cracked open a history book, it’s no surprise that figure skating is not a historically ethnically diverse sport. In a predominantly White sport, the first attempts at reaching diversity were met with blatant exclusion, at least in the States. When that was no longer acceptable with Civil Rights Act of 1964, the burden of laying down a path for more diversity in the sport fell upon those skaters.

When the sport grew in popularity, East Asians and the diaspora stepped up, presumably due to a mix of social and economic status. With figure skating costing in the tens of thousands per year at the elite level and easily $5,000-$7,000 per year at lower levels, historically disadvantaged ethnic communities simply lack the means to break into it. Paired with the social pressures of being a cultural minority on the ice, the cycle of anti-diversity perpetuates. But Diversify Ice looks to change that narrative.

The Program

Diversify Ice has a couple of main programs with the goal to expose as many people to the sport with as little intimidation as possible. The Sip & Skate is geared towards adults as a social event on ice where people can bond, meet new people, and experience skating in a judgement-free environment. The Ice Skate-Raiser was an event geared towards people of all ages to try skating as well as support the foundation in future programming. Both events share the success of bringing people together to try something new and enable Savary and his board to continue this journey of diversifying the ice rink.

As I was getting on the phone with him, Savary mentioned he was in the process of collaborating with a few schools local to the DMV (D.C., Maryland, and Virginia) area to bring figure skating programming to their students. Many current elite figure skaters grew in love with the sport from experiences such as field trips and birthday parties, so it makes sense to aim for schools to reach as many people as possible for the greatest return of investment. Through this future partnership, Diversify Ice will be able to create a new diverse crop of recreational, competitive, and potentially elite figure skaters, and I am personally very excited for the growing organization!

Ways you can help

Donate equipment or money

While money is always appreciated, Savary explicitly mentioned needing things like gloves, hats, socks, skates, and pilates mats for their programming. As the foundation’s aim is to bring skating to more diverse communities, anything helps! Click here to donate!

Share Diversify Ice on social media

If you don’t have the financial means to support the organization, they are especially grateful for spreading the word about what they’re up to! Follow them on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Support them with grants and foundation support

If you know about any grants or fiscal opportunities that the foundation would be a great fit for, please share!

Question of the Day!

What’s you million dollar idea to increase diversity in the sport at all levels?

Women’s Sports Foundation: Organization Spotlight

My childhood wasn’t really active. Sure I had a bike, a scooter, and my mom signed me up for some soccer camps, but I was never encouraged to engage in sports. My elementary school didn’t have recess, gym class, or even after-school sports clubs, so by the time I got to middle and high school I lacked the desire to participate. It wasn’t until I started skating when I actually felt like being active was a choice I could make, albeit in a female-dominant sport.

Women’s Sports Foundation is a crucial organization to the sports landscape in the country as it aims to bring self-identified women to the field–literally and figuratively. Folks at this organization have identified a lack of female representation both as athletes and as leaders in sports: positions like coaches, directors, even commentators. As far as aspirations go, WSF has high but entirely achievable goals that can greatly change the landscape of leadership. At the end of the day, society needs more female leaders, and what better way to promote leadership than participation in sports.

Mission: We are dedicated to creating leaders by ensuring girls access to sports.

Women’s Sports Foundation website

Population: Girls and women of all ages and ethnicities

Women assigned at birth make up over half of the world, yet participate and hold sports positions at lower rates than cisgender men. While female-dominated sports like artistic gymnastics and figure skating give these women a platform to athleticism, the mainstream sports covered by media lack adequate female representation. The misconception that women should be less active than men has been pervasive for centuries. Because of this, cisgender girls are less likely to be active in childhood, which turns into a less active adulthood and promotes preventable health conditions. While it may look more inclusive today than 50 years ago, we still have a long way to go.

The Program

Women’s Sports Foundation does so much that it’s hard to succinctly list out without taking up the whole post! As a foundation, WSF awards grants and scholarships for a variety of roles and accomplishments. The Linda Riddle/SGMA Endowed Scholarship is for graduating high school seniors with limited financial means to continue their sports career in college. Sports 4 Life Funding is meant to fund programs that support sports programs for 11-18 year old black and Latinx girls. The WSF Tara VanDerveer Fund for the Advancement of Women in Coaching encourages the development of female coaches through fellowship. Just these alone speak to the Foundation’s dedication to its mission.

Then there’s programs like GoGirlGo!. As a curriculum to keep elementary, middle, and high school girls involved in physical activity, the program acts as a supportive structure for existing programs in direct contact with the girls. It teaches everything from nutrition and body image to confidence and leadership. Many programs that mean well lack the infrastructure necessary to adequately provide for their communities, but this program helps fulfill that need. Overall, the foundation is dedicated to increase sports participation at all levels of athleticism and behind the scenes on the executive level, which would ultimately empower more women to be present in historically male-dominant spaces.

Ways you can help

Buy this limited edition headband from KT Tape

I have 2 because why not! It’s for a great cause AND they’re pretty. Oh and I guess they’re multi-functional, but I just sweat in them.

Donate directly to WSF

Money solves many problems. Do it for the girls! Your contribution no matter how small is valuable.

Do any or all of the actions on this one pager

Are you a woman with any mild interest in being a coach? Maybe political advocacy is more your style? Savvy in social media campaigns? WSF offers so many ways to help their mission without spending a dime!

Question of the Day!

Are the women in your life as active as the men? How about those that identify outside of the binary?

Figure Skating in Harlem: Organization Spotlight

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.

Figure skating in Harlem logo

The Program

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

Donate

As with any organization, a little goes a long way, and there are so many more kids who could use this amazing program!

Amazon Smile

Turn your midnight shopping adventures into a donation without having to do anything or spend extra money but register this organization in Amazon Smile!

Volunteer

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!

Students Run Philly Style: Organization Spotlight

Have you ever had the thought to run a 5k, 10k, or even a marathon? Though programs like C25k and Nike Training Camp provide a guideline for people to reach these goals on their own, Students Run Philly Style provides a way for young people to receive free mentorship and guidance as they work towards the large goal of completing a road race.

I’ve talked a bit about how much I love organizations that share my values, so I figured there’s no better time than the present to share some with you! I have personal ties with Students Run, having been a student during the first ever Blue season in 2014 where I trained to run the Broad Street Run, a famous 10-miler in Philadelphia. After recovering from an eating disorder, this program at my school helped me create a healthier relationship with my body, connect with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, and keep myself accountable in order to achieve something great.

Girl holding a medal near her face
Girl running in a race with a watermark overlaying it
Student Run Philly Style Logo

Mission: Students Run Philly Style transforms students‘ lives through running and mentorship.

Student Run Philly Style Website

Population: Philadelphia and Camden, NJ middle and high school students

In the 2018-2019 academic year, the Philadelphia school district consisted of 46% African American students and 24% Latinx students, two of the most socioeconomically vulnerable populations in the country. The City has already expressed its position for more Out-of-School Time (OST) opportunities for students across the city to avoid exposure or committing criminal activity, as well as fortifying learning experiences. As municipal funding has been stretched and strained, it has been up to local non-profits to fill the gap the city has left for the at-risk youth in the city.

The Program

The Students Run Philly Style program is based on having teams based generally at schools led by staff at those schools. The teams collaborate with each other to have larger group practices all over the city, but within accessibility of travel for the students. These teams also have volunteer mentors that help motivate the students during their practices and races, building meaningful relationships and increase self-esteem within the students.

The program divides the year into Blue and Green seasons; the Blue season lands in the beginning of the school year, where students train for the Broad Street Run in June. The Green season starts during the summer time, where students train for a little longer in order to prepare for the full or half at the Philadelphia Marathon in November.

Students receive a lot of perks: free Students Run swag, free registration to the chip-timed races, free sneakers, covered transportation, and a free pasta dinner to carb-load before the big race of the season. If you complete the full marathon, you even get a cool hoodie that says how many times you finished the race. There are some impressive numbers!

This organization is definitely an asset to the city as it provides opportunity to those who may have never done so otherwise. Had I not joined my high school’s team in the last few months of my senior year, I probably would have never developed an athletic mindset with skating. The barrier to running these road races with proper training and equipment may seem low to some, but in a city with such a high poverty rate, this program means the world to many of its students.

Students Run has already posed itself as a lasting institution of the city landscape, hosting an annual race that benefits the program as well as pushing out impressive impact statistics year after year. With their recent admission into the Implementation cohort with the RISE Partnership, there’s no doubt that this organization will continue to help cultivate many more healthy lifestyles.

Ways you can help

Donate to the organization directly

They can always use more funds for operations and being able to supply more resources for their students!

Volunteer

Race day volunteers are invaluable! You can also become a running leader.

Become a charity runner

2 birds with one stone! Raise money for a good cause while you run your favorite race.

Question of the Day!

Have you ever run in a race? The longest race I’ve ever done was that 10-miler, but maybe one day I’ll go for the half!