Community

Nicola Heskett Has a Vision

The new executive director at Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired continues their mission.

Nicola Heskett was appointed as executive director of the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired (CCVI) earlier this year. She succeeds Mary Lynne Dolembo, who retired July 31 after 33 years as executive director at CCVI.

The organization provides specialized services that are comprehensive, intensive and individualized, using a staff of vision-certified teachers, braille instructors, orientation and mobility specialists and therapists. These experts plan, develop and implement education programs that address all aspects of a child’s development.

You have 10 years of experience as a CCVI board member. How will you apply that experience and perspective in this new role as executive director?

As a former board member, I understand the importance of receiving timely and clear information about the needs of the organization. Communication and education are central to a strong relationship between the executive director and the board of directors.

I also have such tremendous appreciation for the deep knowledge, unwavering dedication and broad expertise of the CCVI board. The reservoir of talent and passion present on our board gives me great comfort. I know that there are forty individuals with whom I can seek immediate counsel and advice to make CCVI even stronger.

What are the key initiatives for 2013-2014 to help fulfill CCVI’s mission?

CCVI continues to see an increase in the number of children who have multiple disabilities in addition to their visual impairment. Vision is a sense that you might not intuitively appreciate how integral it is to the development of speech and language and fine motor skills. But the lack of vision has such profound implications on so many other areas of development and education for a child with multiple needs. Continuing to educate and train our staff about how best to maximize what vision a child might have or to utilize technological devices to best serve a child is always a key focus and financial challenge for the agency.

Additionally, we want to make sure we are providing services broadly in our community.  CCVI plans to expand our bilingual therapeutic and educational services, as well as making our resources and website accessible to families where English is not their first language.

Why has volunteer service interested you over the course of your career?

I have been really fortunate to be raised by parents who always made time for others in their community and I have had the privilege to work for and alongside remarkable individuals who were passionate about making life better for others.  I learned early in my life that it feels good to help another person; even just trying to help makes you feel that you matter and connects you to something so much bigger than your immediate world.

If you were enlisted to compete in the next CCVI Food Fight, what would you make and who would you want as a culinary teammate?

CCVI’s Food Fight is going to make a really fun change this year. We are going to have the chefs focus on one protein–pork–and they get to bring prepared tastings to the event so all the guests, and not just the judges, get to taste their food.

My problem is that I am a vegetarian, so I would definitely need a strong partner who could envision, season and taste the pork dish! I love Todd Schulte’s dinners at Happy Gillis and he has the best disposition; he would be great fun to cook with. I could definitely contribute on the side dishes. I make really tasty smashed potatoes and chimichurri sauce–both recipes I learned from chef friends in Uruguay.

More about the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired