Sharon Cohen founded Figure Skating in Harlem in 1997, seven years after meeting a group of East Harlem girls who were eager to learn how to ice skate. Having grown up in the world of competitive skating, Sharon jumped at the opportunity to create the first and only organization for girls of color that combines the power of education with access to the grace and discipline of figure skating to promote girls’ holistic youth development.
Skating since the time she was 8 years old growing up in Delaware, Cohen was a United States Figure Skating (USFS) double gold test medalist in figures and freestyle, and a gold level ice dancer. She went on to graduate from Brown University with a B.A. in political science, then moved to New York City to work at CBS News, and later pursued a Master’s of Fine Arts at New York University in Film Directing and Writing. While producing several award winning short films and documentaries, Cohen worked simultaneously to establish Figure Skating in Harlem as a non-profit education, leadership and sport-based organization that serves girls from under-resourced communities. In 2017, the organization took its successful model to Detroit, as the first chapter in a planned national expansion.
Named the first 2014 CNN Hero, an honor which pays tribute to “everyday people who are changing the world”, Cohen speaks frequently about the positive effects of combining education, fitness and emotional development to empower young women. She has been a guest speaker at the United Nations/U.S. Chamber of Commerce Association Women’s Empowerment Principles Forum, Brown University’s Pembroke Center, the Professional Skaters Association/Ice Skating Institute national conference, the Partnership for Afterschool Education and National Fundraising Day. In 2013, Cohen presented at the 15th International Olympic Committee World Conference on Sport for All in Lima, Peru. She won a 2012 Community Leadership Award from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, and was a winner of Maybelline’s Women Inspiring Confidence through Education announced in People Magazine.