From Virginia to South Dakota, the new Director of Sioux Falls Figure Skating isn’t afraid of taking the leap and is showing her students they can too! Until this job opportunity fell onto her plate, Tiffany Thornton had no idea she would move her family to South Dakota someday. Other than the negative degree temps, they are enjoying it! As someone who has grown up on the ice, Tiffany never thought she would make coaching her full time career, but hearing about her passion for the ice and for teaching her students new skills, there is no better fit. As Sioux Falls Figure Skating continues to grow Tiffany has big dreams for their organization internally and for the community. Those dreams have built a relationship with the Sioux Falls School District’s Elementary Immersion Center (EIC).
EIC is located at Jane Adams Elementary and is designed to provide basic English skills to students in PreK-5th grade. These students are often new to learning English and EIC educates them on basic English communication skills, such as words needed for conversation, early reading, and writing. In addition, the teachers try to include hands on activities within the community to give them a stronger understanding of all the new opportunities around them. One of those is a winter favorite for many, but new activity for EIC students, ice skating.
When Casey Elder reached out to Tiffany to brainstorm this new idea, their biggest obstacle was the financial burden. Casey had inquired about the green Connecting Kids certificate through Sioux Empire United Way. Sioux Falls Figure Skating has been a long time partner with Connecting Kids. The Sioux Empire United Way Connecting Kids program allows students in K-8th grade to participate in an extracurricular activity through a scholarship.
Britni Ridge, Sioux Empire United Way Connecting Kids program manager, shared, “Connecting Kids exposes more students in the community to new things without putting a lot of stress on the family. You can ask your school for a certificate or contact the activity directly. We have over 20 community partners from City Parks and Recreation to Sioux Falls Figure Skating. It has been a pleasure working with Tiffany so far and I look forward to seeing her program grow for all children in our community.”
“Learning that the students of EIC could use these certificates truly opened the door for us to give back in more ways to our community, something Sioux Falls Figure Skating hasn’t done much of in the past. We have new ideas for us in the coming months and our partnership with United Way and EIC is just one of many,” mentions Tiffany.
Sioux Falls Figure Skating is now providing 32 EIC students with a 4-week program. The look in the students’ eyes was really cool when they saw ice, for many, for the first time. Their excitement not only inspired Tiffany, but her coaches too! One of the coaches was excited to communicate with some of the students in both Spanish and English, something she hasn’t been able to do in years. This helped the students feel more welcomed and calm as they learned their first lesson, safety! The students were taught how to be comfortable with the skates both on and off their feet and on and off the ice. They also received a full facility tour and loved the Zamboni!
“We enjoyed explaining how ice is made and the importance of the Zamboni. The first hour started off a little rocky for us all but by the end, all the students were on the ice standing!” explained Tiffany. “It is really cool to experience this with these students and I look forward to seeing them gliding, stopping, turning, and most importantly having fun. We are not here to make them elite skaters in this short period, but to educate them on a new activity they will always be able to do.”
“I am grateful that Casey reached out from the school district and for our partnership with Sioux Empire United Way,” Tiffany continued. “I believe if there is a child who wants to learn how to skate they should never be turned away. Our motto is ‘how to get up’ and that goes beyond our current skaters. Our organization is more than just elite skaters and competition and opening our doors to these 32 students is showing the community just that.”