Founded in 1997, Figure Skating in Harlem helps transform the lives of young girls of color through education and the discipline of the artistic ice sport.
“What’s unique about Figure Skating in Harlem is we combine leadership development education and figure skating, and we use this to empower girls to make choices and succeed in all aspects of their lives,” says Sharon Cohen, founder and executive director of the nonprofit.
In a video produced by the program, Cohen says participants must maintain a B average or higher, and more than 80 percent receive a B+ or higher.
“We support them by offering small group tutoring at least three to five days a week,” adds Cohen. “We see education in a broader sense. We give classes in financial literacy, communications and writing.”
The organization works with hundreds of girls on an annual basis and has more than 75 coaches, teachers, tutors and counselors.
Alumna Sherrie Smith said the program changed her life. “I went from being a shy girl with no confidence to being a financial controller at Goldman Sachs.”
Cohen says Figure Skating in Harlem can be replicated throughout the country.
“This is a model program that can make a difference in the lives of girls in other underserved communities, and that’s our goal now — to go to cities like Detroit, L.A., Chicago, Atlanta, and give them the combination of figure skating and empowerment so more girls can go on to become leaders.”