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Rochester Education Foundation:  Because every child deserves a great education.
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Seventh Annual Partnership Awards Dinner, 2012


Robert Forster
Actor Robert Forster, a graduate of Madison High School, received REF's first Alumni Award.


Actor Robert Forster moved away from Rochester decades ago. But when it was announced that REF would be honoring Mr. Forster at our 7th Annual Partnership Awards Dinner, it was clear that Mr. Forster has maintained many of his Rochester ties. Friends, classmates from Madison High School and family signed up to attend the event.

Mr. Forster received REF's first Alumni Award October 16. His keynote speech combined stories about acting in Hollywood with advice about being a father and stories about growing up in Rochester.

Mr. Forster, an Academy Award nominee who has been featured in more than 100 movies, suggested that parents give kids room to make mistakes and learn from them. "Give kids responsibility to fail and keep learning all their life," he said. "Education is a lifetime of lessons."


Robert Forster with an RCSD student and his mother
Robert Forster with an RCSD student and his mother.


He also spoke of the lessons he learned from director John Huston, legendary filmmaker of movies including The African Queen and The Maltese Falcon. Mr. Huston told him that the most important thing to remember about acting is to know what belongs within the camera frame -- and what to leave out. Mr. Forster said this advice had proved helpful throughout his life as an actor. Mr. Forster was praised for his hard work and persistence -- traits that are important for success in any field.

Other honorees at the event were Dr. Bill Destler and his wife Dr. Rebecca Johnson, Beth Kaplan Wolf, Deb Lazio and Deon Rodgers. City students and their parents attended the event thanks to generous support from sponsors and other donors to the event.

Dr. Bill Destler and Dr. Rebecca Johnson


Dr. Bill Destler and Dr. Rebecca Johnson
Dr. Bill Destler and Dr. Rebecca Johnson received the NAF Making a Difference award.


Drs. Destler and Johnson received the NAF Making a Difference award for their work supporting Rochester's STEM High School, and the NAF program, and for their support of the Rochester City Scholars Program. Dr. Destler praised the work being done at Rochester's STEM High School, calling it "the most ambitious urban high school project in the nation."

Dr. Johnson noted how much she had learned from the Rochester City Scholars Program participants, who receive a full scholarship at RIT and a broad variety of support so they will succeed at the school. She said: "It means that students don't have to worry about financial hardship. They have a reason to succeed in school and work hard. They too can go to a great school. Our society will benefit from these empowered and invigorated students."


Beth Kaplan Wolf
Beth Kaplan Wolf received REF's Educator Award.


Beth Kaplan Wolf

Beth Kaplan Wolf received an educator award for her high-quality teaching as a specialist in teaching English to speakers of other languages at the Rochester International Academy (RIA). Her student, Eh Mu Ku, had an interpreter available but surprised his teacher by introducing her in English. Mr. Ku told the group that he just arrived in the US a year ago, and already was speaking English thanks to Ms. Wolf. Ms. Wolf said: "Students work incredibly hard to achieve every day. At RIA we know that students can be an asset if you give them an opportunity to grow. So thank you to REF for helping."

Deborah Lazio


Deborah Lazio
Deborah Lazio, recipient of REF's Educator Award, gets a hug from student Nyaliah Butler.


Ms. Deborah Lazio, principal of School 25, also received an Educator Award for her leadership as an effective -- and beloved -- educator. Student Nyaliah Butler noted: "Miss Lazio takes her work seriously to provide students with the best education. She counts on us." Ms. Lazio said: "Teachers do the hard work but things are only possible when we act as a team."

Deon Rodgers


Deon Rodgers
Deon Rodgers, recipient of REF's Making a Difference Award, with some of his Rochester River Flow Soccer Club members.


Finally, Deon Rodgers was honored with a Making a Difference Award. Mr. Rodgers is the founder of Rochester River Flow Soccer, an urban soccer league. He was introduced by two of his former players, now in college, who continue to serve the league as coaches. "I love to see former players as coaches, passing it on; the chain is never broken," Mr. Rodgers noted. He said that he is a proud graduate of East High School, and he is commited to helping others achieve success. "If kids see it, they can believe it, they can achieve it. That's why we must always be at our best," he said.


Photo album: click here
Click here to see more photos from the event. (All photos courtesy of Nathalie Traikos)


The Partnership Awards Dinner is REF's major fundraising event.

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