Bundled up in warm, puffy jackets, gloves and helmets, the skaters took to the ice of Ingalls Rink at around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday — and they weren’t hockey players.
Elementary school students from the Wexler/Grant Community School take skating lessons from Yale undergraduates and other volunteers once a week at the rink. Bonnie Collier, a fellow of Morse College and former associate director of the Yale Law Library, who started the program five years ago, said that this year she has more students than ever before because of a new partnership between Leadership, Education and Athletics in Partnership (LEAP) and Wexler/Grant.
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LEAP, which organizes after-school programs in New Haven, took over the administration of after-school activities at Wexler/Grant this year, but has continued to partner with Yale-run programs such as the skating sessions that were already active at the school. Collier said that LEAP brought a new level of organization to her endeavor, and has brought the number of elementary school children who attend the weekly skating sessions up from about 13 last year to approximately 27 this fall.
Collier said the increase is due in part to the fact that when LEAP took over, the organization hired a bus to bring students the half mile to the rink, whereas they used to have to walk, and were sometimes deterred by bad weather.
“The goal of this program is to give kids something that challenges them that they can accomplish, so they can take that knowledge of themselves and apply it to other areas of their lives,” Collier said, adding that if a student can learn to skate in six weeks, they might be more confident that they can learn to do math as well.
Collier said ideally she would have one volunteer for each student. This year, she has about 10 volunteers helping out, which is consistent with past years. Collier said a variety of people from both the New Haven community and Yale volunteer with the program. The collegiate figure skating team has supplied some skaters and some of the women’s varsity hockey players have come as well, she said.
Ferny Reyes ’10, who is one of the academic coaches for the LEAP program and helped to bring the students to the rink Wednesday, said LEAP gives children from underprivileged areas of the city opportunities they would not normally receive.
“Many of our kids have never seen an ice rink in their lives,” he said.
The students said they enjoyed the lessons. Desmonet Smith, who also participates in Dwight Hall’s Girls Run after-school program and has attended three skating sessions so far, said she likes learning new tricks. Nichel Bascal said she especially enjoys skating forward and backwards and turning.
“I like skating,” Kyana Kelly said. “Skating is my favorite.”
Volunteers said they also have fun at the weekly sessions. Cora Ormseth ’14, who found out about the program through an e-mail sent by the Morse master, said she finds it refreshing to skate with kids since she is usually around college students all day.
For Mark Knoblock, who lives in the area and has volunteered with this program since its first year, it’s a way to skate and serve the community. Knoblock first met Collier at a Yale hockey game, and got to know her since they are both avid skaters, he said.
“It’s been a lot of fun and the kids really enjoy it,” he said. “Some of them start off a little shaky the first time on the ice. … [A]fter a couple weeks they love it and really look forward to coming back.”
Several students fell on the ice on Wednesday, but no one was injured.