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Highmark Foundation honors six nurses with its fourth annual Advancing Excellence in School Nursing Awards

May 9, 2018 | Pittsburgh, Pa.

PITTSBURGH (May 9, 2018) — Commemorating National School Nurse Day today, the Highmark Foundation announced six winners of its fourth annual Advancing Excellence in School Nursing Awards, created to honor and recognize the important role that school nurses play in keeping children healthy. Award winners each receive $1,500 to use for professional development or health-related programs at their respective schools.

"The role of school nurses has never been more important. I continue to be impressed with the skills school nurses demonstrate every day," said Highmark Foundation President Yvonne Cook. "With an increasing number of children entering schools with chronic conditions such as cardiac issues, autism, autoimmune diseases and cancer, the challenge facing school nurses has never been greater. These six extraordinary school nurses are going above and beyond to protect and improve the health of the students in their care."

The awards were presented in three categories, highlighting the dynamic role of school nurses:

  1. School Nursing Practice & Leadership winners demonstrate leadership in school health, exhibit qualities of care and compassion and/or publish research.
  2. Spirit of the Year winners serve as a role model and display a love for the school nursing profession; compassion and caring for students, staff, and families; and a willingness to learn and advance the school nursing profession.
  3. Collaboration winners form partnerships with other school districts, health care providers, and health systems and/or locate resources and assistance for students, staff, and families that may otherwise not be available.

The six Advancing Excellence in School Nursing Awards winners were selected by a panel of judges from nominations received across the regions that the Highmark Foundation serves throughout West Virginia and Pennsylvania (excluding Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties). The winners, listed alphabetically by award category along with town of residence, title, and school/school district served, include:

School Nursing Practice & Leadership

  • Melinda Landis, of New Freedom, Pa., school nurse, Southern York County School District

Spirit of the Year

  • Courtney Bench, of Somerset, Pa., certified school nurse, Somerset Area School District
  • Debra K. Gerlach, of Harborcreek, Pa., certified school nurse, Millcreek Township School District
  • Jill Schulz, of Cranberry Twp., Pa., certified school nurse, Seneca Valley School District
  • Bettina Seidel, of Camp Hill, Pa., certified school nurse, Capital Area Intermediate Unit


  • Eileen Ranalli, of Gibsonia, Pa., certified school nurse, Riverview Area School District

Award presentations take place at the winners' schools on dates agreed upon by the Highmark Foundation and school administration. Winners will also receive a metal sculpture created by Roland Metal Art in Johnstown, Pa.

About the Highmark Foundation

The Highmark Foundation is a private, charitable organization of Highmark Inc. that supports initiatives and programs aimed at improving community health. The Foundation's mission is to improve the health, well-being and quality of life for individuals who reside in the communities served by Highmark Inc. The Foundation strives to support evidence-based programs that impact multiple counties and work collaboratively to leverage additional funding to achieve replicable models. For more information, visit


Matt Stehl
Highmark Health