Brandon Frazier, Jason Brown, Vincent Zhou, Alexa Knierim, Alysa Liu, Madison Hubbell, Karen Chen, Zachary Donohue, Mirai Nagasu, Evan Bates, Madison Chock, Mariah Bell and Nathan Chen pose with students at the Figure Skating in Harlem 25th Anniversary Gala at Gotham Hall on April 25, 2022 in New York City.
NEW YORK — From an International Olympic Committee award, to expanded programs, to a star-studded gala attended by many members of the U.S. 2022 Olympic figure skating team, it’s been quite a 25th year anniversary celebration for Figure Skating in Harlem.
Founded by former figure skater Sharon Cohen in 1997, FSH — which offers year-round academic, leadership and skating programs for girls ages 6 through 18 — began the year with recognition as one of six winners of the 2021 Women and Sport Award, presented by the IOC. The annual awards are given to people and organizations who advance gender equality on and off the playing fields.
“It was a momentous occasion to be recognized in such a profound way, particularly on such an international platform,” Andrea Jordan, the FSH chief operating officer, said the day of the 25th FSH Anniversary Gala, held earlier this week in midtown Manhattan.
“For the students in our organization to be associated with the Olympics on that level, it was just magical,” she added.
More magic was in store at the Gala, where FSH students mixed with a who’s-who of Team USA stars, including recently crowned Olympic champion Nathan Chen and Olympic bronze medalists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue.
Among the other U.S. skaters in attendance were world pairs champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier; three-time world medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates; two-time world championships medalist Vincent Zhou; world bronze medalist Alysa Liu; two-time Olympian Jason Brown; reigning U.S. champion Mariah Bell; 2017 U.S. champion Karen Chen; and 2018 Olympic team bronze medalist Mirai Nagasu.
“The way FSH uses skating to bring people together and teach them about teamwork and support, that’s what our sport is all about, as well as getting back up every time you have a misstep or any type of setback,” said Brown, who finished sixth in the men’s event in Beijing. “The life lessons the students learn through this organization focus on that and highlight everything that is so special about this sport.”
FSH stands on three pillars: education, skating and fitness and leadership. Using a standardized computer assessment, some 96 percent of its students reported improved leadership skills, while 90 percent showed an improved competency in STEM concepts and 80 percent of students showed improvement in reading or math. The vast majority graduate from high school and go on to college.
“The combination of those three pillars carries our girls throughout life,” Jordan said. “When they fall on the ice, they get back up. It’s the same thing in life — you meet different challenges. The lessons learned in our program allow you to persist, to push and move forward. And that is the heart of what we want our students to learn with us.”