October 15, 2014

RSD Founder’s Awards Recognize Dedication to its’ School and the Greater Rochester Community

Rochester Police Officer and RSD Teaching Assistant Honored with 21st Annual Awards

Rochester, NY – The 21st annual Rochester School for the Deaf (RSD) Perkins and Lyon Founder’s Awards, so named for dedicated individuals of paramount importance to the establishment of the school more than 138 years ago, honor two women whose diligent work has contributed greatly RSD and to the Rochester community.

Rochester Police Officer Renee Nicholls is the recipient of the 2014 Perkins Founder’s Award. Officer Nicholls, of Spencerport, is a 19-year veteran of the Rochester Police Department (RPD). She has served the community as a patrol and crime prevention officer from 1995 to 2009. In 2008 she was assigned by the Chief of Police to be RPD’s Liaison to the Rochester’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community. While still in that role today, Officer Nicholls is also coordinator of RPD’s Major Crimes Unit, a post she has held since 2009.

The Perkins Founder’s Award recognizes individuals like Officer Nicholls whose dedication to career and outstanding service to RSD or to the Greater Rochester community embodies the spirit of Mr. and Mrs. Gilman H. Perkins. Through their benevolence for their deaf daughter and RSD alumna Carolyn Perkins, the landmark school for deaf and hard of hearing children was established and continues to this day.

“Officer Nicholls has worked diligently to improve and strengthen the relationship between the deaf and hard of hearing community and the Rochester Police Department,” RPD Lt. Korey Brown said. “She continues to build trust and cooperation with the deaf community.”

In 2013 Officer Nicholls led an innovative collaboration between the RPD and RSD Outreach Services to develop and provide in-service training to fellow officers in American Sign Language and Deaf awareness, Deaf culture, community and technology. She aided in the creation of the Deaf Visor Communication Card for deaf and hard of hearing individuals to use during traffic stops. At RSD she facilitated two Police Activities Leagues for deaf youth and officers to interact and learn from each other. And, she continues to work with all local agencies and organizations to provide workshops and community forums geared toward improving communication and relations between law enforcement and the deaf and hard of hearing community.

“Renee is a highly motivated individual,” said Ms. Susan Klein, RSD Teaching Assistant and member of the Deaf Community and Police Interactive Committee. “Her goal is to develop good relationships between deaf and hard of hearing citizens and police officers. It is her belief that when they interact, they can learn how to work together, overcome communication barriers and educate each other.”

Officer Nicholls is married to RPD Sgt. Mike Nicholls. They have two children and their nephew Joshua Howell-Leyer attends RSD.

The 2014 Lyon Founder’s Award recipient is Ms. Victoria ‘Vicki’ Nordquist, a 1978 graduate of RSD who resides in Framington, Ontario County. She has been a teaching assistant, athletics coach, drama club and school play director, master storyteller and a Deaf role model to RSD students for over 31 years.

“Vicki is a value-added member of any teaching team she is assigned to,” said RSD Principal Mrs. Nancy Perry. “Her passion for storytelling and theater as well as her sense of humor and patience are a tremendous set of skills that help students to learn and be successful.”

The Lyon Founder’s Award recognizes individuals like Ms. Nordquist who have provided professional contributions to the education of students who are deaf and hard of hearing. The award is given in honor of Mr. Edmund Lyon, a friend of the Perkins family, whose work played an important role in establishing RSD as a premier center for the education of deaf and hard of hearing children and their families.

While Vicki was a student at RSD her father Richard W. Nordquist volunteered his time and talents as Parent-Staff Association President and Treasurer. Mr. Nordquist was also a member of the RSD Board of Directors from 1973 to 1985 and was Treasurer in 1974 and President from 1976 to 1979. Vicki’s mother Ellen also contributed her time to RSD and was volunteer coordinator from 1975 to 1976. Vicki’s sister Karen also volunteered her time as a college intern tutoring dorm students during evenings.

“One of the best moments in my life,” Vicki said, “was my father’s presence on stage when I received my diploma at graduation. Another was when he presented me with the Sportsmanship Award at the Sports Recognition Night in 1976. They are fond memories I will have in my heart forever.”

In 27 of her 31 years on staff at RSD Vicki found herself in various roles coaching athletic teams; primarily girls’ basketball. In 2005 her team won 2nd-place in the Eastern Schools for the Deaf Athletic Association (ESDAA). The following year her girls captured the ESDAA championship – a first in RSD history. RSD girls would repeat for 2nd place in 2007 and take back the championship in 2008, the year that Vicki retired from coaching.

“I’m retired from coaching but I never “retire” from being a fan of all Wildcats,” said Vicki. “To root for support our student-athletes is one of my passions.”

Vicki’s other passions include storytelling and theater. She has attended numerous national storytelling conferences to enrich her knowledge and skills in the art and “…to instill the love of American Sign Language storytelling in Deaf children’s hearts and minds,” she adds.

Her work with students and fellow staff in RSD stage productions is legendary. “The openness of children’s minds bring great imagination on stage,” Vicki says.

Some of the many memorable productions that Vicki has developed and directed at RSD include, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” “The Quisted Tales of Cinderella,” “The Fusion of ASL World,” “Grease,” and “The Wizard of Odds – The Deaf Dimension."




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