Bison on ice! Howard University is the first historically Black college or university (HBCU) with a figure skating team. Read more details about the two passionate students who made it possible.
Who made it happen?
According to U.S. Figure Skating, Maya James, a junior psychology major, and Cheyenne Walker, a senior political science and Afro-American Studies major, both started skating around the age of seven years old. The two weren’t familiar with one another when they arrived at Howard University, but they did share one idea – to introduce a figure skating program at the HBCU.
How’d they do it?
During winter break in 2022, James read an article about Walker and reached out to her on social media to ask if they could collaborate. Walker was excited to begin working towards their common goal and immediately developed the team’s constitution. They both teamed up to schedule and budget.
“When Maya reached out to me, I was so excited because I was speaking to other girls from Figure Skating in Harlem who go to Howard, and we would always speak about how we wish there was skating, but we didn’t know how to go about it,” Walker said. “So, when Maya was like, ‘Yeah, I want to start this,’ I was on board for sure because it’s definitely something that I wanted to see on our campus community.”
How long did it take?
The students noted that it took an entire semester to get the club registered at their university and with the U.S. Figure Skating organization. By the summer of 2023, the team was official. Howard University became the first intercollegiate figure skating team in history at an HBCU.
Now, the official figure skating club has recruited many interested students. James acts as the president and Walker as the vice president. They utilized social media and attended the school’s student association fair to attract students, who were open to join. Some students were familiar with the sport and others wanted to try it out for the first time.
After several months of recruitment and preparation, the team headed its first practice last month on Oct. 7. The leaders organized a 5 a.m. bus ride to the nearest rink in Maryland, more than 30 minutes away from the campus. Their dedication to getting the figure skating team deserves a round of applause.
Diversify Ice founder Joel Savary, who described it as a “historic opportunity that fits very closely within their mission,” and board member Joy Thomas, both of whom are D.C. locals, are coaching the team. Diversify Ice also gave counsel and assistance to James and Walker throughout the early phases of the team’s formation.
What’s next for the new team?
Individuals who are new to the sport will have an opportunity to participate in a series of workshops to enhance their skills. While those who are more advanced will take their talents on the road and compete at intercollegiate events early next year.
The Howard University figure skating team aims to compete for the first time in February 2024 at the University of Delaware.
“Being the first of anything is a really big responsibility because you’re trying to set the precedent for everyone else,” said Howard’s figure skating team member Ariel Clarke, U.S. Figure Skating reported. She also noted that she and another team member once believed they were the only skaters at Howard.
“So, if there is another HBCU that feels like they should create a figure skating team or is inspired by our story,” Clarke added, “I think that would bring a lot of the current skaters on those campuses together to create a powerhouse of HBCU skaters.”
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