Highmark Foundation Honors 11 nurses With 3rd Annual Advancing Excellence in School Nursing Awards

Updated on August 28, 2023

Commemorating National School Nurse Day today, the Highmark Foundation announced 11 winners of its third 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.

“I continue to be impressed by the advanced knowledge and skills demonstrated by school nurses,” 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, school nurses face the challenge of managing their care during the school day. These 11 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 four 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. Transformation winners work towards positive change in the delivery of school health care and prevention services and/or advance school nursing by sharing best practices and innovations.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 11 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

  • Donna Callahan, of Williamsport, Pa., certified school nurse, Williamsport Area School District
  • Meri Beth Elder, of Latrobe, Pa., certified school nurse, Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center
  • Lydia Catherine Gordon, of West Columbia, W.Va., certified school nurse, Mason County Schools
  • Marie Ripepi, of Monongahela, Pa., certified school nurse, Charleroi Area School District
  • Krista Wright, of Seneca, Pa., certified school nurse, Forest Area School District


  • Sarah Gottlieb, of Charleston, W.Va., certified school nurse, Kanawha County Schools

Spirit of the Year

  • Diane R. Godwin, of Buckhannon, W.Va., certified school nurse, Upshur County Schools
  • Mary F. Gronkiewicz, of Carlisle, Pa., certified school nurse, Saint Patrick School


  • Susan Geary, of Somerset, Pa., certified school nurse, Somerset Area School District
  • Yvonne (Susie) Povick, of Sissonville, W.Va., certified school nurse, Kanawha County Schools
  • Marie Ripepi, of Monongahela, Pa., certified school nurse, Charleroi Area School District
  • Allison St. Clair, of Peterstown, W.Va., certified school nurse, Monroe County Schools

Award presentations will 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 www.highmarkfoundation.org.

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