Very few kids skate through life. But beginning at age seven, Vanessa Gonzalez has been gliding through the trials of growing up by lacing up a pair of sharpened figure skates. “I love the feeling of the ice under my feet. It makes me forget about anything,” she says. A scholarship from the Northfield Youth Sports Collaborative, a Northfield Area United Way-supported program, was essential to her development as the scholar, leader and graceful skater she is today. The scholarship she received has paid multiple dividends for her and those she’s touched.
From student to coach
A high school senior, she progressed from skating student to volunteer assistant to full-blown coach. Northfield Skating School Founder and Director Carey Tinkelenberg says, “Vanessa is a natural leader. She is patient and kind, and she thinks through how her actions impact others. ”
As a coach, Vanessa is magnetic, Carey adds. Kids are drawn to her cheerful, calm disposition.
A former national competitor in a sport sometimes identified with prima donnas and tire-iron antics, Carey determined that her school imbue the beauty, grace and athleticism of skating with life skills — skills that give skaters an edge on ice and in life. Carey only hires coaches who are collaborative leaders and Vanessa is a shining example, she says.
Giving back comes naturally
Vanessa not only models leadership on the ice, but also in her multiple volunteer activities. She completes a circle of giving, and that makes her a United Way hero. Vanessa is a member of the National Honors Society’s Steering Committee; she was selected for the Junior Board at Community Resource Bank; and she was recently chosen as a Defeat of Jesse James Days ambassador. Next year she plans to attend Northwestern College in St. Paul, where she’ll study to become an elementary school teacher.
You can make a difference in another’s life, too. Nominate a hero — someone who gives back in our community like Vanessa or her hero, Carey — and perhaps hasn’t been recognized. The deadline is October 12. Five minutes could mean a world of difference to someone who gives and gives.