Great Neck Park District seeks to enhance skating programs with new hires

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An interior view of the Andrew Stergiopoulos Ice Rink. (Photo courtesy of the Great Neck Park District)

“Winter is coming.”

That was the tagline for the Andrew Stergiopoulos Ice Rink‘s opening party on Sunday, as people went to the Great Neck Park District facility for a chance to get on ice and watch performances from elite skaters.

Those skaters included Ilana Sedaka, who has earned seven national solo ice dance medals since 2011, Brooke Cenname, 16, who has skated in various competitions, ninth-grader Francesca Cilluffo, a national competitor and state champion, and Eden Reznik, a regional competitor.

Aside from a love of skating, all four had one thing in common: they got their start at the local ice rink.

“It’s something pretty special that Great Neck has,” Superintendent Jason Marra said, referring to the offerings of the ice rink.

Now the district intends to build on success, Marra said, with the hiring of two new leaders in the skating and hockey programs, as well as new programming to draw new enrollment in skating programs. The district also upgraded its online systems and registration, Marra said, prompting a “fresh start” in some areas.

Grant Marshall, a retired Canadian ice hockey player who played for the Dallas Stars, Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils, will be joining the Great Neck Park District Bruins Hockey staff as the director of player and coach development. In that capacity, he will work with the travel and in-house teams.

The Great Neck Park District also hired Joelle Forte, an Eastern Sectional champion, Team USA member and five-time North Atlantic Regional champion, to be the new skate school director.

Forte said she heard about the job opening from one of the coaches with the district. She then found that the Park District’s vision matches hers – to make skating programming bigger and better, she said.

“I think that is something we’re both working towards,” Forte said in an interview.

Forte said she hopes to keep people involved with the sport, give back to the community and keep the “family kind of vibe” the park has. She also noted that while she would be honest about skating being harder than it looks, the life lessons it can offer are priceless.

“I feel like skating teaches you a lot about the hardships you’ll encounter as you get older, that not everything is all circles and fairies,” Forte said. “There’s a tremendous amount of hard work that goes into it and tremendous dedication is required.”

But, Forte added, “It keeps you focused and it keeps you striving for something better.”

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