Figure skating in Harlem celebrates 25 years of empowering girls of color

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Figure Skating in Harlem students pose for the Figure Skating in Harlem 25th Anniversary Gala on April 25, 2022 in New York City.

Currently, about 130 girls from Harlem, upper Manhattan and lower Bronx are enrolled in the program, but Jordan expects that number to grow to 180-190 as New York City continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. All attend the FSH Academic Center one or two days a week for tutoring and homework help, as well as social and emotional workshops and small group interactions designed to help build fellowship.

FSH students aim for an “A” average, are in good standing with a “B” average, and must take additional homework classes with a “C” average. Girls with a “B” average or better are entitled to two figure skating sessions per week.

“Obviously, figure skating is an expensive sport,” Jordan said. “Our students have far fewer sessions per week on the ice compared to what many other skaters receive in terms of private lessons. We have a synchronized skating team (Harlem Ice) that goes to a few meets every year, and they have an extra session or two a week, but they’re winning medals in spaces where they don’t necessarily have as much access.

Former FSH Sandra Williams (2006-2015) remembers how the allure of saving time on the ice encouraged her to focus on her grades.

“I love skating, and the only way I could skate is if my grades were under control,” said Williams, now a college graduate and senior media planner for the Black Entertainment Network. “And they have tutoring, they have the STEM program, they have financial literacy classes. It always kept us ready to go, especially in our college prep classes.

One of FSH’s most recent initiatives, Pipeline to Power, extends the program to young graduates between the ages of 18 and 25 as they enter college and later begin to build their professional lives.

“Getting to college can sometimes be difficult for black and brown students,” Jordan said. “Our programming is very focused on helping our girls with applications, applying for financial aid, writing their college essays, and thinking about different paths they can take based on their current interests and needs. .

“We also know that there is an underrepresentation of black and brown women in mid-level leadership and leadership positions,” she added. “Pipeline to Power allows us to mentor our daughters through college and their careers (by) tapping into our strong network of alumni and professionals, and to really connect our students with other women who can support them in their professional careers.”

A recent alumni reunion brought many former students back into the fold; some shared their career paths with current students.

“There are a few areas we’re focusing on,” Jordan said. “The first is to understand what you think of leadership skills. Another is self-advocacy and communication tools you can use as a woman starting out in a career. …And then there’s this kind of alumni career path, which focuses on connecting our students to internships and job opportunities in different professional fields.

Williams credits FSH’s multi-pronged approach to helping launch her own professional career.

“I probably wouldn’t have said ‘yes’ to an interview like this when I was younger,” she said. “Just being able to have those public speaking skills, and that fellowship – the feeling of not being judged by the world, that everyone is just there to hear you speak and share ideas – was what allowed me to stay with the program and continue working with it after I graduated.


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