Howard University is now home to a figure skating team. It is the first HBCU in the country to offer the sport. The team was founded by two students who have been skating since childhood and noticed the lack of opportunity at the institution.
“I just missed the sport honestly,” Maya James, a psychology major, told US Figure Skating. “I didn’t really skate that much during the pandemic; I stopped skating for like two years. As I was coming to college, I also saw a lot of the U.S. collegiate Instagram pages and how they went to competitions and how the competitions look so fun and welcoming.”
She eventually reached out to Cheyenne Walker, a political science and Afro-American studies student. They decided to make the change they had been wanting to see by recruiting skaters, figuring out a schedule and a budget.
The Howard University Figure Skating Team became official this summer. It hosted its first practice session on Oct. 7.
After deliberating between pursuing skating or enrolling in a Historically Black College or University, two students at Howard University made a groundbreaking choice to establish the nation's inaugural HBCU skating team.https://t.co/eS2dRk5KEs
— U.S. Figure Skating (@USFigureSkating) October 25, 2023
“I think what really was my driving passion to get this club up and running was the fact that figure skating is such an amazing sport, but not everybody has access to it,” Walker said. “Especially being on an HBCU campus, I thought it was so important for us to bring not only the sport to the campus but [make] sure it’s accessible and for everyone.”
The team includes both experienced skaters and newcomers. They are practicing at 6 a.m. at an ice rink in Maryland, located 30 minutes from campus. They are hoping to compete in their first intercollegiate competition at the University of Delaware in Feb. 2024.
The team is hoping that this initiative helps everyone feel represented in the figure skating community.
“If you’re thinking about skating — if you have the tiniest inkling about doing it — you should definitely do it,” one of the team members, Gabrielle Francis, said. “There’s not that many of us out there on the ice making a difference. I just want people to know no matter what you look like, the ice is for you.”