Excitement surrounds Figure Skating in Harlem, a program founded in 1997 by Sharon Cohen that serves girls from the community ages 6 to 18 with skating lessons and educational opportunities. May 1, the organization held its annual benefit gala, Champions in Life.
Members of the U.S. Olympic team who competed in PyeongChang this past February were on hand along with past Olympians such as Timothy Goebel, who coached FSH participants at their home rink in Riverbank State Park when he was in college, and Sarah Hughes, a long-time FSH supporter.
As always, the stars were the FSH skaters, none more so than Briann Anderson, 10, who during a spoken word performance proclaimed she wants to become president of the United States. “I love the sisterhood and everybody showing teamwork,” said Anderson, already a four-year veteran.
“They teach us to ignore stereotypes,” said Madison Langley Green, 10, in her second year with FSH. Five of this year’s graduating seniors have been with FSH for 10 years or more. Langley Green said she can definitely see herself continuing with the organization until she heads off to college.
Maya DuBose, one of this year’s graduating seniors, explained her appreciation of the program, commenting, “I’ve loved to learn how to skate and being able to do something different. I love to learn, so this has been a very eye-opening and happy experience for me.”
Two program alumnae were on hand. For recent law school graduate Awa Henderson, FSH was a blessing in her life. “It taught me confidence, perseverance and how to get up and keep trying,” Henderson said.
Photographer and art director Florence Ngala, 22, said being surrounded by coaches, educators, counselors and her peers helped hone her communication skills. “I developed confidence at a very young age that I would not have had if not for this program,” Ngala said. “Being here tonight feels like coming full circle. To see girls I remember as kids going to college, I got emotional.”
Other big developments this year have been a feature on ABC’s “Nightline,” a collaboration with Beyoncé, who featured FSH skaters in a short film on her sportswear label Ivy Park, and the successful launch of the affiliated Figure Skating in Detroit.
In addition to the U.S. Olympic figure skating team, the evening’s honorees were philanthropist Elaine Wynn and former skater/longtime FSH supporter Jessica Betts Dreyfuss.