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Highmark Foundation celebrates National School Nurse Day by honoring 10 nurses with Advancing Excellence in School Nursing Awards

May 8, 2019 | Pittsburgh, Pa.

PITTSBURGH (May 8, 2019) — Commemorating National School Nurse Day today, the Highmark Foundation announced 10 winners of its fifth 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 expanding role of our school nurses is so important to our children’s health and safety. The skills school nurses demonstrate on a daily basis are beyond impressive," said Highmark Foundation President Yvonne Cook. "The challenges facing school nurses have never been greater and these 10 extraordinary school nurses go above and beyond for the students in their care. On behalf of the Highmark Foundation we are proud to recognize their efforts."

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 ten 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

Spirit of the Year

  • Donna Lafferty, of North Huntingdon, Pa., certified school nurse, Norwin School District
  • Melissa Tornabene, of Parkersburg, WVa., school nurse, Wood County Schools


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 501(c)(3) private, charitable organization dedicated to improving the health, well-being, and quality of life for individuals and communities throughout the areas served by Highmark Inc. and its subsidiaries and affiliates. We fulfill our mission by awarding high-impact grants to charitable organizations that implement evidence-based programs aimed at improving community health. Central to the Foundation’s mission is identifying and continuously re-evaluation our region’s prevailing health care needs. By doing so, the Foundation remains at the forefront of those needs, well equipped to pinpoint issues that most urgently need support.


Matt Stehl
Highmark Health