Beautiful black baby girls on ice skates is a sight to behold. Perhaps that’s why Beyoncé just blessed Figure Skating of Harlem, the only organization in America that offers ice skating and academic mentoring to girls of color, with workout gear from her line, Ivy Park. On its website, Ivy Park stated, “We donated bc these girls embody our motto #strongbeyondmeasure.”
Figure Skating of Harlem was founded in 1997 as a direct response to Harlem’s need for enriching athletic and academic mentoring for girls ages 6-18. FSH established itself as a safe space, but more than anything, it’s also a place where these young ladies can get out of their comfort zones and into another world for the pursuit of excellence—on and off the ice.
Full disclosure: I’m a figure skater. It’s a humbling and unforgiving sport that demands focus and precision. I’ve been on the ice taking my own lessons when the students who are awarded access to the FSH program are in session, and I am always impressed by these young ladies. Let me tell you: Their focus, discipline and dedication across the board is stellar; while instructors are speaking, you can hear a pin drop.
My skating coach, Wendy Wilke, is among the 75 high-level professional coaches who volunteer their time to train the students at FSH. She says they are among the “most mature and respectful students [she’s] worked with anywhere in the world.”
For 20 years, FSH has been open to girls who live in Harlem or New York City’s Bronx borough; my native Detroit recently launched a chapter of the charity as well. To qualify, students have to show evidence that they are striving for an A average, consistently maintain a B average or get extra homework tutoring with a C average. Figure Skating Harlem helps to provide academic as well as athletic instruction for its students’—who often come from low-income communities—success for life.
Combating poverty through financial literacy is also part of FSH’s year-round academic program; as described on its website:
Through weekly classes developed by award-winning journalist Stacey Tisdale, senior editor of Black Enterprise, students learn about financial values. Her “Winning Plays” curriculum emphasizes the importance of setting goals and creating action plans to achieve confidence about financial matters. Lessons include generating income, understanding the value of saving and spending wisely, and techniques to help students stay on track with their short-, medium- and long-term goals.
Couple these comprehensive services, which also include nutritional counseling and periodic health assessment of students’ physical progress, with the serious time commitment of 9-15 hours on ice each week per student. Then add the 40 minutes total it takes to gear up and strip down before and after class, and you have kids who have a full schedule of positive, life-building skills.
Founder and CEO Sharon Cohen told The Glow Up:
FSH creates a culture of academic success where 100 percent of our graduating seniors go on to colleges like Georgetown, Spelman, Mount Holyoke, Howard and Barnard. Through rigorous academic tutoring and educational classes in communications and STEM, we prepare our students to aim high and succeed on and off the ice!
Hopefully we’ll see another generation of beautiful black baby girls skate their way to success.