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Highmark Foundation announces Advancing Excellence in School Nursing Awards in honor of National School Nurse Day

May 12, 2021 | PITTSBURGH, Pa.

PITTSBURGH (May 12, 2021) — Celebrating National School Nurse Day, the Highmark Foundation announces winners of its seventh 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.

"School nursing professionals are integral to the day-to-day success of students and their health and well-being," said Highmark Foundation President Yvonne Cook. "Their adaptability in rising to the challenges caused by the pandemic and the barriers to access in this new virtual environment has been inspiring. It is with gratitude and appreciation that the Highmark Foundation recognizes these winners."

The awards are chosen based on four categories:

  • School Nursing Practice & Leadership winners demonstrate leadership in school health, exhibit qualities of care and compassion and/or publish research.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Transformation winners advance school nursing by sharing best practices and innovation's while rethinking the delivery of school health care services to students.

The 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). Congratulations to this year's winners:

School Nursing Practice & Leadership

  • Mimi Schneider, M.Ed., BSN, RN, CSN, certified school nurse and Nursing Department Chair, David E. Williams Middle School, Montour School District

    What inspired Ms. Schneider to become a school nurse? "When choosing my career, the decision between nurse and teacher was a difficult one. I have a background in Child Development and Psychology, school nursing really felt like a natural fit. I enjoy being part of the educational process, promoting both mental and physical health, while still using my nursing skills to treat illness and injuries." Ms. Schneider will be creating a scholarship for prospective nurses with her award.
  • Sandra "Sandy" Hughes, lead school nurse, Huntington East Middle School, Cabell County School District

    What inspired Ms. Hughes to become a school nurse? "I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children." Ms. Hughes will use her award to attend the National Association of School Nurses' 'Transforming Student Health: School Nurses Leading the Way' conference and to purchase an automated vital signs reader.
  • Jenny Friel, registered nurse and certified school nurse, Hillsboro Elementary School, Marlinton Middle School, Pocahontas County High School, Marlinton Elementary School and GreenBank Elementary & Middle School, Pocahontas County School District

    What inspired Ms. Friel to become a school nurse? "I minored in School Nursing in college and always wanted to work within the school system." Ms. Friel will be using her award to purchase clinical supplies.
  • Kathy J. Verbel MEd, BSN, RN, NCSN, certified school nurse, Arlington Heights Elementary School, Hamilton Elementary School and B.F. Morey Elementary School, Stroudsburg Area School District

    What inspired Ms. Verbel to become a school nurse? "An effective school nurse helps maximize a child's access to learning, providing a lifelong impact on their educational success and overall wellness. I wanted to be a person who could make this kind of difference in the life of a child." Ms. Verbel will use her award to attend the National Association of School Nurses' 'Transforming Student Health: School Nurses Leading the Way' conference and for the Arlington Heights Elementary School emergency supply fund to help families in need.

Spirit of the Year

  • Amanda Stroup, school nurse and Department Head of Health Services, Palmyra Area Middle School and Forge Road Elementary School, Palmyra Area School District

    What inspired Ms. Stroup to become a school nurse? "I recognized the ability to develop long term relationships with the students compared to the acute care or ambulatory setting. The value of impacting students' lives on a daily basis was evident." Ms. Stroup's school district will be using her award to purchase additional and updated supplies for school health offices.
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. For more information, visit


Denée Crumrine
Corporate Communications Manager