Figure skating in Harlem: 25 years and growing State and region

NEW YORK. A quarter of a century ago, Sharon Cohen founded an organization that made no sense to some. After all, how many skaters would she find in Harlem?

Figure skating in Harlem is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a gala event to be held on April 25, and has become a success story based on study, social growth and, well, yes, on ice.

“I am incredibly proud of how many people have come together for such a mission,” Cohen said. “We took a sort of 360-degree review and started a collective journey to do good and be a springboard for young people to discover themselves and come out into the world.”

The goal of the organization is to help girls from different racial and ethnic groups change their lives by growing confidence, leadership and academic success. Obviously, it worked. FSH graduates are deep in their careers or attending universities throughout the United States. Current students, who came out due to the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic, are returning to normal life. Cohen even sees second-generation skaters in the program.

Figure skating in Harlem combines the power of education with access to the artistic discipline of figure skating, “to build champions in life”.

His gala performance will honor several such champions, from 2022 Olympic gold medalist Nathan Chen to actress / humanist Whoopi Goldberg; singer / songwriter Valerie Simpson; Unilever Chief Operating Officer for Beauty and Personal Care EVP Essie Eggleston Bracey; Leading Partner of Portfolio Rising America Fund Lorin Pendleton; and Bernice DeAbreu, a member of the New York Board of Education that specializes in computer literacy and primary education and is known as the “godmother of FSH”.

All the women have long been supporters of the organization, while Chen stands among many outstanding skaters.

“It’s always great when an Olympian comes to us and meets girls,” Cohen said. “Scott Hamilton was the first to go out on the ice with the girls, giving them pointers, and his presence meant so much. So did Sarah Hughes. Immediately after Sarah won gold in 2002, she came straight to Harlem and she has moved on to an excellent career in education and law.She is an incredible example as Nathan, a student at Yale University, a scholar.

“I think it means a lot when they are physically present with us and come to our events to tell and share the mission. We are a mission that beats the heart and that people can understand. “

Chen, who has won six U.S. titles in a row and three world championships, could not agree with that.

“The organization has done so much for figure skating and I think is a great sign for this figure skating department,” he said. “To see how we can spread this sport by discovering figure skating in different communities that may not have that much attention. I like their education and to give these girls the opportunity to do figure skating.

“The fact that we, as skaters, have a chance to participate outside (competition) with organizations like figure skating in Harlem is a privilege.”

Having 25 years in books, Cohen prefers to look to the future. But she knows that pandemic experiences are a reminder of the resilience and resilience needed to succeed on the ice and in the classroom.

“When you skate, when you fall, you get up,” she said, “and we’ve found a way to never stop our program. Outdoor riding, Zooms, whatever. You do your best with what has been decided. The young women supported each other and the team. During the pandemic, support was more important than ever in the past. But we wanted them to know that education never stops. ”

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