24 degrees of color helping to diversify ice skating in Los Angeles
By Jillian L. Martinez
Kendal Troutman is not from skateboarding. In fact, the Mahogany Soul owner and founder and executive director of ThruGUIDANCE Ministries only ice skated once when she was growing up in South Central Los Angeles.
Now skating is an integral part of her life as she uses it to create community and opportunity.
“Kendal is an incredible person,” said Jennifer Pope, senior vice president of community development and hockey for the Los Angeles Kings. “Her passion for diversifying kids on the ice for figure skating and hockey is unmatched and we are lucky to call her a friend and partner.”
Troutman’s journey to skating was inspired by his young daughter, Amai.
“I had no interest in the [Winter] Olympics, and we weren’t a household that watched stuff like that,” Troutman said. “So when I became a mom, I intended to introduce Amai to more experiences than I had.”
Troutman introduced the then 4-year-old Amai to the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics on television. When Amai looked at figure skating, she wanted to try it. However, Troutman didn’t know how to get his daughter into the sport. After some research, she found learn-to-skate lessons at the Toyota Sports Performance Center in Los Angeles.
“We took two class sessions and I was still a little hesitant about it,” Troutman said. “Amai, however, loved it, and I couldn’t get her off the ice.”
One day, Troutman and Amai were at the rink for lessons and saw a banner for synchronized skating. Curious, Troutman went to the information table to find out more. That’s when his view of the sport took a turn for the worse.
“I asked for an application and the coach said, ‘It’s really expensive,'” Troutman said. “I was like, ‘OK. I still want an application.’
Troutman said she faced other barriers to entry, such as not knowing a certain type of shoe was needed for synchronized skating after having already purchased a cheaper model. More discouragingly, she was told her daughter’s tights couldn’t match her black skin color and had to be the same as her white peers.
The cost of being part of the team became an issue, and additionally the feeling of being rejected as a black family caused Troutman to reconsider his daughter’s involvement.
Appalled, Troutman shared her story with her 150 Instagram followers, most of whom are close friends and family. She didn’t expect the video to be shared with coaches and skaters around the world.
Within days, the video caught the attention of rink officials and the Los Angeles Kings. They asked how they could help. Two months later, 24 Degrees of Color was created in partnership with the Kings and Toyota Sports Performance Center. In February 2021, 24 Degrees of Color was fully integrated into the Centre’s learn-to-skate program.
According to the 24 Degrees of Color webpage, which is listed as a program under Troutman’s international non-profit organization ThruGUIDANCE: “[The] The goal is to diversify ice skating and ice hockey in LA County by making these sports more financially accessible, ensuring diverse representation at the rink, introducing young people to recreational ice sports, and providing resources to compete, if interested.
“Kids participate in the Learn to Skate program and have the same access and resources as any other skater,” said Troutman, who is a new member of US Figure Skating‘s DEI task force. “I organize skate drives so that people can donate skates, costumes, equipment and clothing.
Currently, Troutman has 67 children enrolled at 24 Color Degrees, which is overcapacity and has a waiting list of 15-30. Later this year, the program will expand to LA Kings Iceland at Paramount and hopefully the, will be able to enroll 65 other children. at the partner ice rink.
The program was a resounding success, according to parents of registered skaters.
“I never imagined that my son could participate in ice sports,” said Emma Garcia, whose son and niece participate in the program. “Thanks to ThruGuidance/24 Degrees of Color, my son is learning to play hockey and figure skating. The first time he saw young hockey players, he was mesmerized. He said, ‘Mom, can I do this?’ He was enthusiastic about the speed and maneuvers of hockey players and loved the artistic movements of figure skaters.
“When I asked him to choose between hockey and figure skating, he replied: ‘Why mom? I like both.'”
Vanessa Rosales, parent of Logan and Presley Rosales, discovered the 24 Degrees of Color program just over a year ago when she was looking for public skating hours at a local rink.
“As someone who grew up figure skating, I was looking to introduce my 7-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter to the ice,” Rosales said. “Fast forward to just over a year later, my son is now learning to play hockey and my son and daughter will be attending figure skating camp over the summer. None of this would be possible without the tireless work and effort of Kendal and his incredible team.
Troutman thought construction was going to be slow with Hispanic and Black communities, as ice sports are generally not available or promoted where they live.
“When we originally launched, we put up a flyer on the Toyota Sports website, but had to remove it because it was so popular,” Troutman said.
Thanks to word of mouth, the number of skaters and families interested in 24 degrees of color exceeded Troutman’s expectations. Unfortunately, due to funding and resource limitations, Troutman still struggles to help his skaters progress beyond the introductory phase of hockey and figure skating.
Most of 24 Degrees’ money goes to training camps, holiday shows and rink services. Although they have equipment and equipment, hockey players enrolled in 24 degree courses have never played a game or participated in a league. In the meantime, some figure skaters have been able to participate in private lessons or local competitions. The cost, however, of joining a synchronized skating team remains prohibitive.
With that, Troutman continues to use his experience running nonprofits to raise funds, find volunteers, and make the program as profitable as possible. She also educates parents and families on how to help their children on the journey to ice sports.
“We do very in-depth orientations. We onboard parents by educating them on what to buy, how to buy and how to care for skates,” Troutman said. “We tell them what to expect at the rink, how the system works and the importance of showing up for sessions. I really want families to engage with the program.
Toyota Sports Performance Center General Manager Chance Berman witnessed how this program grew so quickly and impacted dozens of families in LA County.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but it was impressive to see how driven and driven Kendal is to make this program what it is today,” Berman said. “She’s been an absolute asset and has opened the doors for so many other kids to try a sport they didn’t have access to before.”
“When we launched our We Are All Kings learn-to-skate program, she worked with us to make sure we had kids from all communities and walks of life on the ice,” Pope said. “We wanted to expose them to the sport that we all love and after a few weeks the improvement was amazing.
“We’ve now taken these kids from learning to skate, to Hockey Basics, and then Little Kings, where they’ve been kitted out with the gear from head to toe. We look forward to continuing to watch them as their hockey journey continues, while bringing new kids to the program this fall.
While Troutman feels she doesn’t have all the solutions for the future of 24 degrees of color, she takes it all in stride. The skater retention rate is approximately 95%, and the communities’ desire to pursue their passion for skating fuels it. Through all her efforts (and the efforts of those who seek to contribute), Troutman hopes to make ice skating the accessible and inclusive sport she sought at the start of Amai’s journey.
“I didn’t go out to create a diverse ice skating program, but it was a great gift that happened,” she said.
To donate to the 24 Degrees of Color program, visit www.thruguidance.org or send a check to their mailing address at 4859 W Slauson Ave #237 LA, CA 90056. ThruGUIDANCE Ministries is a 501c3 nonprofit organization.