FSH gala

Exploring the Heart of Figure Skating in Harlem

Join Sophie Paris and Daria Forde ‘16  as they delve into the vibrant world of Figure Skating in Harlem (FSH), an organization that’s not just about gliding on ice but about uplifting young Black and brown girls from underserved communities. So, what exactly is FSH all about?

The Beginning of the Journey

Picture this: Harlem, New York, a place buzzing with energy and culture. FSH found its roots there as a nonprofit dedicated to empowering young girls through figure skating. From ice performances to academic support, FSH offers a holistic approach to growth and achievement.

A Personal Voyage

Now, let’s rewind and hear from someone who’s been through the FSH journey firsthand. Meet Daria Forde, a Miss Porter’s School (MPS) Ancient and a former FSH participant who got involved at six. For her, FSH wasn’t just an extracurricular activity – it was a lifeline, a path to explore creativity outside the confines of traditional education.

Daria Forde (right) with a friend at the ice rink.
Daria Forde ’16 (right) with a friend at the ice rink. Image courtesy of the Forde family.

“FSA was incredibly pivotal to my experience as an adult because it ingrained in me at a young age the value of being in communities that uplift you. One being in Harlem, was really special, and two, being able to practice figure skating, which is a predominantly white sport. You don’t necessarily see people who look like me in that sport, and being involved at such a young age really propelled me to break whatever barriers I met over the course of my formative years and as I’ve parlayed into my adulthood. Figure skating in Harlem was very much the beginning of that. It was the beginning of me wanting to go to a school like Porter’s where there weren’t that many people who looked like me and still excelling, and then, going to Barnard after that, excelling in that space, and kicking off my career.”

From Skates to Success

As Daria blossomed into adulthood, FSH remained a guiding light, instilling values of resilience and community. Through her experiences at MPS, she found a nurturing environment that prepared her for the opportunities ahead. And now, she’s poised to showcase her journey in an upcoming Disney+ docuseries celebrating FSH’s 25-year legacy.

“I found out about Porter’s because I was involved in a program called the Oliver Scholars Program, which is dedicated to ensuring that high-achieving Black and brown students in New York City from underserved communities can get into private schools in the city or boarding schools in the northeast. I felt pretty independent at age 13 and knew that I wanted to go the boarding school route, although I had applied to a number of other schools. I thought that there was a lot of value in single-sex education, particularly education that’s built on women and non-binary folks being well-educated. I appreciated the intimate environment of Porter’s, which had just a little over 300 students. It made it special and approachable, and it made me feel welcome.”

Daria Forde (right) leading the commencement processional as the Nova Nine Head of School
Daria Forde ’16 (right) – leading the commencement processional as the Nova Nine Head of School.

Lessons Learned, Wisdom Shared

Looking back, Daria has some pearls of wisdom to share with Sophie Paris, director of Porter’s Center for Global Leadership and director of auxiliary programs at Miss Porter’s School, as they chatted about her involvement in FSH and their time together at Miss Porter’s School. To her 15-year-old self—and young women everywhere—she emphasizes the importance of rest amidst the pursuit of excellence. It’s a lesson learned through trial and error but vital for long-term success and well-being.

A Heartfelt Tribute

Before we wrap up, a special shoutout is in order. To Miss Porter’s School and the Farmington community, thank you for being a beacon of support and growth. Your dedication to nurturing young minds is commendable, and folks like you make dreams possible.

“It’s really that Farmington is a very special place, and I’m happy that it has evolved since I was there. I’m really thankful for that. Much of it is the work you’ve [Sophie Paris] put into the community. So thank you for that. I want you to know you’re one of the first adults I felt comfortable with. I was thankful for my experiences with Miss E. [Eartha Tyler] and people like Raegan Chekas as my dorm parents. But to have you in the classroom and to have you really “see” me meant a lot. I would say that’s all I have to share. I laughed, I cried.” 

Watch Daria’s full speech from the FSH Gala, “Reaching for the Stars”:

Video courtesy of Figure Skating in Harlem.

So, there you have it – a glimpse into the world of Figure Skating in Harlem and its incredible impact on young lives. From Harlem to Farmington and beyond, let’s keep striving for excellence, one graceful leap at a time. Until next time, skate on!

Banner image courtesy of Figure Skating in Harlem – photographer: Derrick Salters


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