Musa Ibrahim, who played with the Ice Hockey in Harlem program for nine years, was confronted with a number of tough situations while playing the game.
During one game Ibrahim beat a defenseman and had a chance for a breakaway, but the defenseman knocked him down and sent him crashing into the goalie, who started punching Ibrahim in the head. A fight seemed imminent, but instead Ibrahim skated away.
That moment of restraint impressed Ice Hockey in Harlem program manager Brad Preston, who was proud that Ibrahim took the high road. He shrugged off an adversary during the heat of the moment, a common occurrence for the aspiring filmmaker and graduating senior at The Harvey School in Katonah, New York.
"Even though I've faced frequent adversities as an African-American ice hockey player, I would not take one moment back," Ibrahim said.
Integrity, perseverance and brilliance are common traits belonging to high school students Ibrahim, Laura Lima, Jaylin Muse and Patrick Rosa, recipients of the 2017 NHL/Thurgood Marshall College Fund academic scholarship. All four share goals of pursuing higher education in a variety of majors and focuses.
Already on Ibrahim's resume is his title of co-producer and co-director of "Fatherhood," a documentary exploring why some fathers decide to stay with or leave their children, and the impact of those decisions on different generations of people. The film was selected to premiere at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival as part of the "My City, Our Story" segment highlighting New York City's best emerging storytellers. He is hoping to attend Temple University to major in film studies with ambitions to become a documentary filmmaker.
Ibrahim said he's grateful to Ice Hockey in Harlem, which is dedicated to improving the social and academic well-being of youths in the Harlem community through active participation in team sports since 1987, for helping open doors for him.
"I never considered ice hockey and never saw myself playing it because I never saw anyone from my community or skin color playing the sport," Ibrahim said. "But when I stepped on the ice I could not stop. I quickly fell in love with the game. I loved to fall on the ice and get right back on my feet. I loved the cold nights where I could not feel my hands or feet and I loved to challenge myself to get better."
Lima, 17 and of Brazilian descent, has played on the boys and girls teams with Hockey in New Jersey, a Newark-based organization inspiring youths to develop life skills, succeed academically and create positive relationships through hockey, since 2003. Introduced to hockey while watching her first New Jersey Devils game, Lima has been accepted to Rowan University, where she plans to study criminal justice and psychology, and work toward a career in law enforcement.
"When I was in middle school I received tickets to a Devils game for [making] honor roll, and as soon as I watched the game I was caught onto the speed and overall the mentality of the sport," Lima said. "At the time I was also trying to find a sport to play and soccer wasn't the right fit for me, so one day a flyer for Hockey in New Jersey was being passed around in class about playing hockey for free, and I took that opportunity. Since then I continued to love the sport every time I stepped out on the ice."
Introduced to hockey at age 13, Muse, 17, is the second consecutive scholarship recipient from Snider Hockey, which has inspired youth throughout Philadelphia and Camden with an off-ice life skills curriculum and supplemental educational services to build character and confidence for young boys and girls. Even after losing her house to a fire in December 2013, hockey helped Muse excel at Parkway West High School in Philadelphia. She is headed to West Chester University this fall to study engineering.
"Ice hockey is not just about playing hockey to me," Muse said. "Hockey has impacted my life by allowing me to create bonds with teammates and coaches, experience new things and gain valuable life skills that I can use in college and beyond. Hockey has opened many doors for me which is why I am grateful to be a hockey player and part of the Ed Snider hockey program."
Rosa, 18, is a right wing for the Capital City Crew, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based organization partnered with the Carolina Hurricanes to give inner-city youth ages 8-14 the opportunity to play hockey and reach their full potential on the ice and in the community. The graduating senior from Middle Creek High School in Apex, North Carolina, plans to major in business administration at North Carolina Central University.
"My mother made me play hockey and I had no idea that I would love this sport so much," Rosa said. "I have to say I knew absolutely nothing about hockey when I first started but I have been given opportunities to travel, meet new people and the life skills I have learned are priceless. Thanks to the NHL I was able to go to the Willie O'Ree ice hockey camp. I have met players like Eric Staal, Cam Ward and Grant Fuhr, to name a few."