April showers bring May flowers, and I don’t know about you but I am ready to see some colorful blooms after the gray skies and snow, sleet and rain. My favorite flowers bloom this time of year, gardenias and lilacs, both known for their fragrant blooms. And I absolutely love seeing the pear blossom trees flower along Lenox Avenue. Park Avenue can have their cherry blossoms, but we have our pears.

Perhaps not so happy to see signs of spring are the members of Lady Harlem, the girls’ ice hockey team that recently wrapped up their season. Ice Hockey in Harlem formed in 1987, when part of the oversized Lasker Ice Skating Rink, located in Central Park at 110th Street, divided its court in half so as to accommodate both figure skaters and hockey. Of the 240 children who participate in the program, 76 are girls. When the coaches noticed that some of the teenage girls no longer wanted to play on the boys’ teams, program director Brad Preston felt the time was right to start a league of their own. “We had a really gung-ho group of girls who, even though they would have been fine playing with boys, we thought, let’s get them their own team and see if that works for them,” said Preston.

Head coach of the girls’ team is Amanda Adams, who played at Yale and coached Division I hockey. She stated to the 125th BID Newsletter, “One thing you want to teach girls is to be competitive. And that going after each other is a good thing and not a boy trait. That’s a huge life skill. This year I noticed that the more you get into the nitty-gritty of skill details and the details of the game, the more the girls are focused and driven to get better every day. We want people to have fun and to have a positive experience. But we also want them to get real, hard skill development.”

Using the skill to strengthen academic focus is just one component of the program. Participation in the game is tied to mandatory weekly classes in math and geography.

Statistics from the USA Hockey league show that girl’s hockey is one of the fastest growing sports among teenage girls in the country. The 2016-17 season reported the total number of girls ages 13 to 19 playing hockey was 18,185. That’s quite an impressive number. Hockey is often thought of as a Caucasian sport dominated by players from Eastern European countries, but a change in that perception is beginning to take root.

One of the Lady Harlem team members, Marwa Soussi, is proof positive of the changing color of hockey. Soussi said, “Myself, I’m actually Arab. My parents are from North Africa. We have Mexican players, players from Venezuela. It’s amazing.”

Playing right wing and center for Lady Harlem is Christmarie Salcedo, age 17. Of her experience, Salcedo stated, “The competition, the feeling you get when you’re on the ice, that for me is so fun. And it’s rare to see someone playing hockey. I liked that.”

Just 60 years ago, Willie O’Ree, the NHL’s current diversity ambassador, broke the league’s color barrier, blazing a trail for the Black players who came after him. Those players include forward Jordan Greenway, the first Black hockey player in Olympic history to play for Team USA hockey. Fast forward to the end of the season, March 2018, Amanda Kessel of the U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey team, paid a visit to Lady Harlem, bringing along her gold medal from Pyeongchang for the girls to see.

Of the other championship team member, forward Hilary Knight, Soussi stated, “She [Knight] told me about her education path, how she played through high school, in college, and went on to be a professional. I want to be like her.”

Also getting in their last licks before spring has sprung was the Fathers Ski with Their Kids Crew, who this year had their annual ski trip in Park City, Utah. Flying in from Washington, D.C., were Robert Webber with son Tyler and nephew Bryce Gaines. Kendell James, with daughter Harmon and son Kaleb and Kendell Flowers (Bryce’s grandfather), along with Charles Mitchell and daughter Julia, all met up in Salt Lake City before traveling to the ski resort. The idea for the winter get-away with just the dads and the kids started about seven years ago when the children were just tots. Each year the group would meet at the Flowers’ vacation home in Vermont to take lessons and ski at the nearby Okemo mountain. This year, however, the group thought it was time to extend their ski legs and venture out to the steeper slopes of Utah. The ski shop with equipment rentals was located in the lobby, where the nearby gondola whisked the group to the slopes. While the children advanced to the intermediate slopes, the dads managed to take on a trail or two. No moms were allowed and no one was complaining.

Congratulations to Michele Stent, who was honored with the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Tufts University Alumni Association. Recognized as a federal, state and municipal government affairs representative specializing in policy advocacy, grants, communications and nonprofit management, she was also acknowledged for her demonstrated accomplishments and the positive impact she has had on her community. Stent graciously accepted her award, along with Brigadier General Maria B. Barrett, J88, deputy director of operations, J3, at the U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade, Md.; Patrick Healy, A93, deputy culture editor at The New York Times; Margaret George Kaufman, J64, best-selling author of seven novels, specializing in epic fictional biographies of historical figures; and Hugh M. Mainzer, M.S., D.V.M., DACVPM, V90, senior preventive medicine officer and supervisory epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The Distinguished Service Award was presented to Francesca Grace Lujan, J93, educator in Harlem, focused on educational leadership, inclusion and diversity. The Young Alumni Achievement Award went to Sharad Sagar, A16, who began running his startup, Dexterity Global, which aims to democratize access to education in South Asia, from his dorm room at Tufts. The Young Alumni Service Award was given to Kaleigh Fitzpatrick Hogan, J.C. A08, AG11, law clerk to the chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, who started her career in the Office of Alumni Relations and currently serves as vice chair of the Alumni Resources Committee. The Active Citizenship and Public Service Award was presented to Claudio X. Gonzalez, F91, F92. Gonzalez is a legal specialist committed to the consolidation of the rule of law through fighting corruption and impunity in Mexico and a powerful advocate for public education in Mexico. The Career Services Award went to Bess Dopkeen, A04, who is founder and chair of the D.C. Tisch Summer Fellows Program. Dopkeen has personally hosted many student interns through her job at the Pentagon and helped to pair numerous others with organizations throughout the city.

Until next week … kisses.