DETROIT – Olympic ice dancer Meryl Davis helped bring figure skating to the city of Detroit.
It’s the first chapter of the historic program Figure Skating in Harlem, and five years into the program, it is thriving and giving girls lessons on how to be champions, no matter what they pursue in life.
“Every time we’re on the ice, I feel empowered to be more like them,” said student Ty-Lynn Thorton. “I feel like if she can do it, then so can I.”
And that’s exactly what Figure Skating in Detroit wants to hear.
“Figure skating has entirely changed my life,” Thorton said. “And Figure Skating in Detroit, it’s caused so much character development, I feel in myself. But I’ve changed so much, like I’ve made more friends and have more activities. I’ve felt more comfortable with myself than I was before.”
All the joy and beautiful feelings that Thorton is describing are not necessarily things on the ice, but off of it.
“Yes, figure skating is more of a mental sport for me,” Thorton said. “So, on the ice, that’s physical, but off the ice, it’s mental. So you have to deal with these different challenges, or you can just deal with good stuff.”
Figure Skating in Detroit is the only program for girls of color that combines education with access to figure skating while also building champions in life.
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The girls learn to skate two days a week at Jack Adams Arena. The rest of the time, they’re in the classroom.
“We’re helping them build their academic muscle, and then two days a week they’re on the ice,” said Lori Ward, executive director of Figure Skating in Detroit.
What the students learn on the ice, they use that knowledge with everything they do -- including rebounding when taking some falls on the ice.
“I used to fall a lot when I first started,” said Karrington Mitchell. “But I’ve been in the program for about five, six years now. And I don’t fall as much. When I do fall, I just brush it off because we’re all going to fall.”
Falling is a part of life. Sometimes when you fall, you have to just pick yourself up and keep moving forward.
Figure Skating in Detroit has been moving along for five years straight, including during the pandemic. The organization didn’t just survive the pandemic, it thrived. But it needs more coaches to keep growing.
“We’re looking for people that love working with kids,” Ward said. “People that understand the power of mentorship. So, it’s so much more than teaching financial literacy, or ‘I teach skating.’ Do you teach children? Do you love children?”