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Figure Skating in Harlem celebrates 20th anniversary

Lois Elfman | 5/5/2017, 4:02 p.m.
Tuesday night, Figure Skating in Harlem marked its 20th anniversary of serving girls aged 6 to 18 with a vibrant ...
Board members of Figure Skating in Harlem surprise Founder/Executive Director Sharon Cohen with a special award. Lois Elfman photo

Tuesday night, Figure Skating in Harlem marked its 20th anniversary of serving girls aged 6 to 18 with a vibrant program that combines the discipline of figure skating with educational programs that promote academic success. The Champions in Life Benefit Gala was attended by Olympic gold medalists such as Meryl Davis, Evan Lysacek and Scott Hamilton along with celebrities, high profile people from the business world and several FSH alumnae.

As there was no ice at the venue, several FSH girls performed a spoken word piece celebrating Black girls in skating. The program’s five graduating seniors were recognized.

It was Tanay Davis’ final big night with FSH as she is graduating high school and beginning Howard University on a full tuition scholarship this fall. Now 17, Davis has been involved in the program for 11 years.

“It gave me confidence so whenever I walk into any room I know that I can own it. It also gave me a sense of self-worth that I’m able to change the world and make an impact,” said Davis, who participated in one of the Harlem Ice synchronized skating teams. She often woke at 5 a.m. to get to the rink for early practice before school. The discipline translated to how she approaches everything—she’s always on time and prepared.

Twelve-year-old Raven Williams has been participating in FSH for three years. She said the program gives her confidence and the knowledge that if she fails the first time, she can and should try again. Seeing the success, the older girls have achieved has increased her motivation to excel in school.

“The older girls are great role models,” said Williams. “I like that we have each other’s backs. We have a very good sisterhood. We empower each other.”

High school junior Kemisa Doumbia has been in FSH for eight years. The sisterhood keeps her coming back for cold mornings at Riverbank State Park.

“It gives me perseverance, dedication and commitment,” said Doumbia, who hopes to attend NYU. “My junior year in high school has been very stressful. When I’m on the ice it relieves the stress.”

Hamilton, who was crucial in getting FSH attention back in 1997 when Sharon Cohen first founded the organization, received The Power of Inspiration Award. Other honorees included Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen and Curtis McGraw Webster.