Skating to the top of the grade book

by Ciera Choate

Students served through the YWCA can earn themselves a trip to Indian Trail’s Extreme Ice if their grades are good enough. The program has been going on for six years. Photo courtesy of YWCA


The YWCA of the Central Carolinas and Extreme Ice in Union County are still holding strong to their partnership aimed at helping at-risk youth succeed in their academics.

For the last six years, four or five times a year, Extreme Ice offers a group of students free ice-skating lessons as a reward for high academic standings.

Students who make the A and B honor roll, excel on their accelerated reader tests or excel in their math class are rewarded by a field trip to Extreme Ice where they are taught the basics of ice-skating. The trips take place about every four weeks.

“They get to see outside of their sphere of influence and another side of what happens when you are excelling and are doing your academics. Now they are having an opportunity to earn to go to the field trips to Extreme Ice,” Suzy Rogers, the YWCA Willow Oaks Youth Learning Center coordinator, said.

All students involved in the program come from Willow Oaks, one of the first YWCA housing centers located in Union County.

About 15 to 20 students are chosen for each round and according to those working with the students, many kids attend more than once and have improved their ice-skating since the beginning of the program. Learn-to-skate classes are usually around $125 per class, but these students are receiving all lessons free of charge.

Those involved in the program feel that participation in ice skating gives students motivation not only to do better in school but also to work hard to achieve their goals.

“I thought it was a good idea because I saw how skating helped with determination and it improved my grades. I wanted to bring that to people and help them with school and give them a fun activity,” Lizzie Chaconas, a teacher at Extreme Ice who works with the students, said.

In an attempt to take her work with the students in the program further, Chaconas and her friends are working to form an ice marathon, similar to Race for the Cure, which will help raise money to pay for skating lessons for children who would otherwise not be able to afford them. The group recently began planning for the event and is in the beginning stages of development.

“A lot of these kids couldn’t afford learn-to-skate classes so this is to help them,” Chaconas said. “We want to make more of an impact.”

After 10 years of ice skating, Chaconas said working with the students reminded her of her love for ice skating and how happy it can make her. She has been with the program for a little more than a year, and teaches about four to five classes a year.

“Coming to skate you see how happy it makes them. They all really look forward to it. It’s like a fun field trip. Grades are important but it’s also really nice to see how happy it makes them,” she said. “If they didn’t skate they could do something else, but I think it’s just a really fun outing.”

Extreme Ice is located at 4705 Indian Trail Fairview Road in Indian Trail and can be contacted at 704-882-1830.

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