The Figure Skating in Harlem program trains local girls to excel on ice and in life
Here's a heartwarming lesson: Sometimes, the ice can be cold.
This group of young Harlem-based figure skaters practiced hundreds of hours over two years, but finished last in their first competition.
“It made us feel sad, but at least we had fun,” said Emily Delbrun, recalling her experience last month at a competition in Hershey, Pa. “At least we placed.”
The 8-year-old and her seven teammates from Figure Skating in Harlem skated a two-minute routine to “Tweetbaby,” clad in blue leotards.
“I have never missed practice,” Emily said, expressing a dedication that seems typical among the more than 200 girls who participate in this noted after-school program.
The girls, ages 6 to 18, had just wrapped up a two-and-a-half-hour practice and tutoring session as they prepared for the group’s annual student show, which is slated for March 22 and 23 at Riverbank State Park.
They skate three days a week, alternating between Riverbank State Park and the Long Island City Ice Center in Queens.
They also do homework and discuss topics like peer pressure, social media and healthy eating.
“We knew that education was the center and skating would bring them in the door,” said Sharon Cohen, who founded Figure Skating in Harlem 17 years ago.
The program’s success has attracted the attention such corporate sponsors as Citibank, which recently gave Figure Skating in Harlem a $50,000 grant that could help fund an expansion into the Bronx.
“There’s no other team that has a full team of black and Hispanic girls,” said Zenzile Tonge, 14, who joined Figure Skating in Harlem when she 6.
Her team finished 10th of the 12 teams that competed in Pennsylvania — not that she’s fretting.
Zenzile recently starred in a national commercial with U.S. skating gold medalist Evan Lysacek that aired frequently during the Winter Olympics.
“Our aim is not to send one person (to the Olympics) and make them best in the world,” Cohen said.
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