LAKEWOOD, Calif. — Diversity requires great strides, and when it comes to the ice rink, great glides.
Noa Dodson, 6, is learning to ice skate along with many other beginners her age.
“At first, I didn’t want to do it because I was a little bit scared to get on the ice, but now, I’m not that scared anymore,” Noa said.
Former competitive ice skater Ashleigh Ellis founded the Unity Ice Academy, a free summer coaching program especially for children of color. Since she was a child, Ellis has lived her life on the ice. It’s where she said “yes” to her future husband, and she’s already introducing their 1-year-old son to this frozen world.
Contrary to how it may look, nothing about the sport is easy.
“I mean, it was barely accessible for us and we were middle class, so for kids and families that are considered underprivileged, or even just more than underprivileged, they still cannot afford to do a sport like this,” Ellis said.
This translates to the highest levels. There were no Black athletes competing in figure skating for the American Olympic team this year, a familiar reality for Ellis.
“There was never anyone who looked like me. It was always mostly children who didn’t look like me and I never understood why as a kid,” Ellis said.
For many of her students — Dodson included — Ellis is the first Black ice skater they’ve met. As she teaches them to balance on their new blades, her young student might be the ones bringing balance to this sport.
The camp runs until July 30, culminating in a recital.