Winter 2017                              Karen Howard

Summer 2017                           Christine Aikens Wolfe

Spring/Summer 2018            Cj Coleman

Winter 2020                              Leslie Wessner

Spring 2022                               Mimi Botkin, Dr. Sheila Carter-Jones, Lucy Ware

In 2017, we instituted a new award, at the suggestion of teacher-leader Karen Howard: the Above and Beyond Award.  Karen’s idea was to honor those who had given countless hours to the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project over multiple years.  The awardees would be those who demonstrated through their actions deep understanding of the Writing Project ethos, and who had taken on various roles in order to enact the vision.  However, once Karen suggested the award, and nominated Christine Aikens Wolfe to be its first recipient, others decided to override Karen’s wishes, and to make Karen herself the first recipient, with Christine following closely behind. Karen has organized the Pittsburgh Region Scholastic Writing Awards for a number of years, has directly mentored many children and youth, as well as pre-service teachers.  More recently, she has built partnerships with Pittsburgh Arts + Lectures, Carnegie Museum of Art, and Greater Valley Community Services in Braddock.  Christine has served as co-director, conducted professional development, and directly mentored many children and youth, as well as judging various writing competitions.

Christine Aikens Wolfe and Karen Howard at YWI 2017 Celebration

In 2018, by consensus, long-time co-director and site stalwart Cj Coleman was selected to be awarded the Above and Beyond Award for her vision and leadership.  Cj co-directed the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project’s Summer Institute for fifteen years, and shepherded the site through many transitions.  She was also an outstanding 6th grade creative writing teacher at Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Gifted Center. She wrote poetry and workshopped her creations as part of Carlow University’s Madwomen in the Attic.  Unfortunately, Cj fell ill in February.  She was informally presented the award while in the hospital, but eventually passed away on May 23, 2018. In August 2018, her sisters, Fawn and Kim, and her partner, Connie, received the award formally during our summer potluck.

Cj Coleman, in her element at Visitors’ Day during the summer of 2017

Cj’s death shook many of us to the core of our beings–and we then worked to establish new site leadership without her as the foundation.  Thus, we didn’t name a winner in 2019.

In Winter 2020, it was time to revive the award.  The recipient, Leslie Wessner, continues to play many important roles within the site.  Her passion for youth and their writing is exceptional, as demonstrated by her direction of the Young Writers Institutes for several years, and now, her coordination of the Scholastic Writing Awards for the Pittsburgh Region. Previous, Leslie served as the professional development coordinator for WPWP. Leslie is an active Madwoman, working on fiction and creative nonfiction, and a mother of twin girls.  She has worked as a classroom teacher at various levels, and for a time, coordinated the literacy programs of Animal Friends.

                          Leslie Wessner, the 2020 winner of the Above and Beyond Award

After several years of pandemic living, where the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project was active, but not regularly meeting in person, we held a special gathering and mini-marathon at Posvar Hall on May 8, 2022.  We thought it was a perfect time to (again) revive the Above and Beyond Award, and present it to three women who have been active leaders of the site over several decades: Mimi Botkin, Dr. Sheila Carter-Jones, and Lucy Ware.  All three have dedicated their lives to young people and writing.  Mimi Botkin has taught in Young Writers Institutes and has represented WPWP in many National Writing Project scoring and assessment conferences.  Sheila Carter-Jones has worked on many projects with young people, including Hear Me 101, the Clairton young writers program, the establishment of Camp WOW, and others.  She is a leader within Madwomen in the Attic and has a book of poetry, Three Birds Deep, published by Wayne State University Press, which won the 2012 Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award.  Lucy Ware has served as co-director of the site and is an inspiration to many, regionally and nationally. She was a national leader in the Urban Sites Network for NWP.  Recently she has worked on an art and writing initiative at CMOA and participated in the Beloved Community Initiative. She is also a Madwoman.

Dr. Sheila Carter-Jones, Mimi Botkin, and Lucy Ware, 2022 recipients 

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