Lori Patterson named Women’s History Month Game Changers honoree

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT — Lori Patterson is out to set the record straight.

Patterson, who serves as the executive director of Figure Skating in Detroit, said the biggest misconception of the program is its fundamental reason for existing.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that Figure Skating in Detroit isn’t just about figure skating,” Patterson said. “It’s a full-out youth development program, which focuses on preparing our students with college and career readiness. We want to help them become future leaders in their communities.”

The Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers and Comerica Bank continue this year’s Game Changers series during Women’s History Month by honoring Patterson for her pivotal role in helping girls become resourceful, determined young women.

“Lori’s efforts championing access to a world of opportunities for children in Detroit through figure skating is what drew us to honor her as a Game Changer,” said Kevin Brown, director of community impact for Ilitch Sports + Entertainment. “Figure skating in Detroit uniquely inspires kids to dream big, aligning with our impact goals at Ilitch Sports + Entertainment.”

Figure Skating in Detroit is an extension of the nationally recognized Figure Skating in Harlem program, which provides girls of color ages 6-15 with leadership and academic opportunities combined with the artistic discipline of figure skating.

Patterson started as a program director for Figure Skating in Detroit in 2017 before being promoted to her current position of executive director just a year later.

“They brought me on primarily because of my educational leadership experience,” said Patterson, who has a master’s degree in higher education from Wayne State University. “I’ve worked with girls and have organized programs. That all helped prepare me for this.”

While Patterson has always felt passionate about helping the next generation, she revealed her figure skating experience initially was “just recreational.”

“I’ve always followed figure skating, especially during the Olympics, and cheering for female athletes of color,” Patterson said. “I had a love and desire to know more and follow the sport. Once I joined Figure Skating in Detroit and met Meryl Davis, she was huge with really articulating her passion towards the sport for inner-city girls of color.”

Davis, a Royal Oak, Mich., native, is an Olympic gold medalist competitive ice dancer who is also part of the program’s leadership committee.

“I learned more about figure skating through her (Davis) and through our CEO (Sharon Cohen),” Patterson said. “Davis is a key person in helping us understand everything we needed to about the skating world. This helps me better prepare our girls for their futures.”

Figure Skating in Detroit offers STEM classes, leadership training, personal health programs and many other services. Girls also have access to I Can Excel (ICE), which is an after-school initiative designed to strengthen academic performance, lifestyle habits and leadership skills.

And with mentorship on and off the ice, Patterson said it’s fulfilling to promote “best practices to girls and their families.”

“Figure skating is a very disciplined, challenging sport,” Patterson said. “It takes a lot of perseverance. Those skills can help you off the ice. We really focus on the relationship between the on-ice and off-ice activities, how they can support each other. It’s a beautiful marriage.”

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