SARANAC LAKE Its strange sometimes how accidents can shape a life for the better. Consider Jennifer Kirkpatrick of Saranac Lake, who graduated Feb. 7 during the Saranac Lake Figure Skating Academys (SLFSA) annual Winter Carnival ice show. A badly broken leg at age 7 put Jennifer in a special cast for three months, followed by a stretch of limited physical activities as the healing process continued. Her mother, Katie, said the orthopedic surgeon treating Jennifer suggested skating for rehabilitation. Before long, Katie said, Jennifer was not just skating but competing as well. What followed were eight to nine strong years in competitive skating a part of Jennifers life that will change now as she grows. Each year, it seems, SLFSA bids farewell to a skater in the senior year of high school. Usually, these are kids who have been with the program for years, who have grown up through skating and found discipline, friends, a sense of accomplishment and an extended family. So that last show can be a bittersweet time. I had kind of mixed emotions (on taking to the ice for that final show), Jennifer said. I was excited, because it was another show. It was also a good feeling knowing I could be back next year (to help out with the show) Id love to do that ... maybe even skate. In the fall, Jennifer, 18, will become a freshman at Plattsburgh State University, studying business. I will be going to Plattsburgh State and hopefully coaching, she said. I hope to come back and work with the academy as well. Shell also enjoy the break from the six-day training weeks seven days when competitions were fast approaching. Although Jennifer will continue to be involved with skating, she is looking forward to focusing a large chunk of her life for the next four years on her studies. Along with giving her a focal point for her life for the past 11 years, skating has given Jennifer a role model. After college, I am hoping to have my own store and to teach ... kind of like what Tammy does. Tammy is her coach at SLFSA, Tammy Lalande. I am going to take my senior golds test, so I can coach, Jennifer said. Then shell be able to pass along to upcoming skaters the benefits of her experience. I love to perform, so that definitely was a high point, Jennifer said. I think I learned a lot. It was like an extended family. We traveled a lot together. The trips were a lot of fun. Theres work involved, too. I think sometimes its hard. Growing up, you have to sacrifice some things ... It taught me to be on a schedule. It kept me out of trouble, she said. Lalande said, I take great pride in saying that Ive had her since the time she started. I love Jennifer, and obviously, from the inception of her skating career, we have built a friendship and a foundation based on her skating ... Over the years, you build a bond that exceeds the ice surface ... She has a wonderful talent. She has developed a work ethic. She has had many successes on a competitive level ... Its been a great experience working with Jennifer and a blessing for me. Lalande sees SLFSA as something more than just a group of skaters, and she offers Jennifers success story as an example. It is an example of what we started out to do. It is the extended family, she said. Its not just about what she does on the ice ... This exemplifies our mission. Jennifer has flourished with Lalande and SLFSA. I cant say Ive really had to give up anything, Jennifer said. Ive been able to balance my life and skating and school. My parents said I had to have good grades as well if I wanted to skate. High-level skating is much more than just a personal commitment. Parents and siblings must be supportive and accept sacrifices, too. Things like $1,000 custom skates and $600 dresses for competition may stretch a budget, but the SLFSA program can also pull a family together. I feel that Tammy Lalande and the program helped us to raise her, said proud mom Katie. She got her a work ethic and taught her commitment and hard work and sacrifice. I really felt this program helped form that in Jennifer. I was happy to hear she is not going to give it up (as she moves on to college). Katie also will stay on as an SLFSA board member. The thing that we tried to instill in Jennifer is that when she had a win, there were so many people involved in that win, said Katie. There were the coaches, the dress maker, skate person, music guy, skate sharpener, plus support from family, friends and a school system that was understanding about training times. The lesson took hold strongly with Jennifer. Katie said, We have a saying at the club: Keep your kids out of hot water. Put them on ice. With Jennifer Kirkpatrick, it certainly seems to have worked.