2020 Annual Awards of Excellence Honorees

Please join Achieva for its first Virtual Awards of Excellence on Monday, December 7 at 6 p.m.  Watch the event live at www.achieva.info/aoe.

The Awards of Excellence may look different this year, but our awardees demonsrated accomplishments exemplifying a mission that advocates for, empowers, and supports people with disabilities and their families throughout their lives.

Click here for the invitation. 

Thank you to those that nominated our 2020 honorees below. Achieva looks forward to celebrating with them:

Excellence in Advocacy - Catherine Hughes

Excellence in Community Awareness - Paula Davis, M.A., C.D.E.

Excellence is Employment - Joseph Dentici, President, Kuhn's Markets

Excellence in Family Supports - Colleen Cenk

Excellence in Legal Services - Nora Gieg Chatha, Esq., Tucker Arensberg PC

Excellence in Legislation - State Representative Kerry Benninghoff

Yvonne Zanos Excellence in Media - Kevin Gavin, The Confluence, WESA FM

Excellence in Professional Service - Helen Hawkey, Pennsylvania Coalition for Oral Health

Excellence in Volunteerism - Clara Denardis

Marsha S. Blanco Excellence in Community Leadership - Sherri Landis, Executive Director, The Arc of Pennsylvania

Joe Ott Award - James Woll

Tony Leech Award - Elysia Williams

Cecil & David Rosenthal Community Award - Kaitlyn Anderson

Sattler Humanitarian Award - Robert McDowell

Below are the honorees from 2019. Click here for the 2019 booklet.

Excellence in Advocacy 

Nominees should demonstrate exemplary accomplishments in (either individual or systemic) advocacy, information sharing and education that supports the empowerment of people with disabilities and their family members.

Rita Cheskiewicz

Rita Cheskiewicz is a parent of a young man with I/DA and has been a lifelong passionate advocate for him. Her exemplary accomplishments in systemic advocacy, information sharing and education has resulted in demonstrable improvements for and the empowerment of people with disabilities and their families. Read more.

Excellence in Community Awareness

Nominees should demonstrate commitment to creating and promoting an inclusive and welcoming environment in all areas of community life for people with disabilities and their families.

Heather Tomko

Heather Tomko is a driving force for disability rights advocacy and inclusion and is galvanizing the community around these issues through the advocacy organization she founded, Accessible YOUniverse. Read more.

Excellence in Employment

Nominees should demonstrate excellence in providing competitive employment opportunities, participation opportunities and outcomes for people with disabilities.

Cafe io Restaurant, Chef Jeff Iovino

It’s common to see Chef Jeff Iovino greeting his customers and also supporting his community. He will say he received support during the hard times of the Great Recession, when the restaurant industry was taking a hit and his restaurant had to reinvent itself to survive. He is delighted to be in a place where he can now give back, and doing charitable promotions are a way he can use his talent to do it. Read more.

Excellence in Family Supports

Nominees should demonstrate accomplishment in supporting family members who have loved ones with disabilities.

Jason Rudge and son Presley

Jason Rudge’s family had a hard time traveling. With a young son, Presley, having autism, it was hard to deal with the crowds and noise levels often found in airports. “How are you supposed to go on vacation when it’s real noisy at the airport? It’s just a big deal for our family,” said Jason, a Pittsburgh International Airport employee. So, Jason came up with an idea on how to fix the problem. Read more.

Excellence in Legal Services

Nominees should be an attorney, law firm or legal department who have used their professional skills to enhance the lives of people with disabilities.

Julian Gray, Esq.

Julian Gray is a well-known expert in disability planning and has written numerous articles in various publications, including the Pittsburgh PostGazette and his monthly newsletter, to educate the community, at large, about disability issues. Julian’s dedication to outreach and education about matters related to disability planning is also demonstrated by his sponsorship of a yearly conference for professionals providing services to people with disabilities and their families. Read more.

Yvonne Zanos Excellence in Media

Nominees should demonstrate commitment in reporting issues that are important to people with disabilities and their families.

Elena LaQuatra, WTAE

Elena LaQuatra, though 100 percent deaf in both ears, is defying all odds. At age four, she contracted bacterial meningitis, resulting in the loss of all of her hearing and balance. After extreme rehabilitative measures, including numerous surgeries, Elena now hears with a Cochlear Implant. She attended the DePaul School for Hearing and Speech in Pittsburgh for four years to regain her listening and spoken language skills. Read more.

Excellence in Professional Service

Nominees should demonstrate exemplary use of professional skills to strengthen Achieva as an agency or strengthen the quality of life for people with disabilities.

Dr. Alia Pustorino-Clevenger, Duquesne University

Achieva applauds Dr. Alia PustorinoClevenger, Director for Student Life Assessment and Co-Curricular Community Engagement at Duquesne University, where she has worked in the Division of Student Life since 2003. Dr. Pustorino-Clevenger is part of the Duquesne/ACHIEVA pilot 2.0 planning committee, a program that provides people supported by Achieva participation in co-facilitated vocational and developmental programs focused on person-centered plans and anchored on Duquesne’s campus. Read more.

Excellence in Volunteerism

Nominees should demonstrate a long-time dedication or significant positive impact to Achieva’s growth and improved services and supports for people with disabilities.

Lisa G. Silverman, Esq.

For the past 18 years, Lisa Silverman, Esq., has given of her time and actively volunteered to serve the interests of people with intellectual disabilities (ID) to positively impact people and the lives they lead. This passion naturally occurred as one of Lisa’s sons has Down syndrome. Read more.

Marsha S. Blanco Excellence in Community Leadership

Named in honor of Achieva’s long-time president and retired CEO. Nominees should demonstrate an exceptional and proven record of leading the way for people with disabilities and their families.

MJ Bartelmay

MJ Bartelmay, Jr. is the proud father of a young man (MJ III) with significant disabilities. MJ has lived a life of service for people with disabilities, becoming a volunteer of The Arc of Mercer County, and eventually serving as Board President. He is known for promoting quality and innovation at The Arc of Mercer County and embracing The Arc’s advocacy mission. Read more.

Joe Ott Award

Named in memory of a long-time volunteer and past Achieva Board Chair who exemplified outstanding leadership. Nominees should demonstrate outstanding vision, volunteer leadership and generosity of spirit.

Jeremy Shapira

Jeremy Shapira has served on Achieva’s Boards of Trustees and Human Resources Committee for many years, giving countless hours as a volunteer to both. During 2018 and 2019, Jeremy served on Achieva’s Strategic Vision Committee, which involved numerous in-person meetings and conference calls over a 12-month period. Jeremy was also instrumental in Achieva’s decision to take its “inclusion liaison” partnership between Achieva and Giant Eagle from a five-year demonstration project to a newly-created “Business Services” division within Achieva’s Employment Supports Department. Read more.

Tony Leech Award

Named in memory of a past Achieva Board Chair and one of the organization’s most inspiring volunteers and leaders. The Tony Leech Award is a $1,000 gift awarded to a person with a disability who has leadership qualities and strength of spirit, as was admired in Tony.

Teresa Plunkett

Teresa Plunkett lives, works and embraces her community. She exhibited her spirit and leadership abilities early on after surviving open heart surgery, 11 days in the NICU and various other serious medical conditions. However, when she turned two, she not only began to walk, she began to run! Read more.

Cecil and David Rosenthal Community Award

Named in memory of Cecil and David Rosenthal, who lived their lives as an integral part of the community. The Cecil and David Rosenthal Community Award is a $1,000 gift awarded to a person with an intellectual or developmental disability who, like Cecil and David, has embraced being a part of their community, and in return their community has embraced them.

Mark Steidl

Mark Steidl is one of the region’s most respected leaders in the disability community and his “strength of spirit” is evidenced in his many accomplishments. As an infant, Mark was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and uses a variety of technology to manage his condition. He is currently on the dean’s list, at the North Side Campus of the Community College of Allegheny County, working on his Associates Degree in Social Work Foundations which he will complete in 2020. Read more.

Sattler Humanitarian Award

Achieva’s highest honor, the Sattler Humanitarian Award is named for the late Sara and Leo Sattler and is given to volunteers who have made continuous, outstanding contributions on behalf of people with disabilities. The nominee should demonstrate leadership skills, community involvement and advocacy on behalf of people with disabilities.

William S. Demchak
(Sally McCrady, PNC Executive VP, Director of Community Affairs & Corporate Social Responsibility, Chair & President of the PNC Foundation
 accepting on behalf of Bill Demchak)

William “Bill” Demchak has been a tremendous supporter of not only Achieva, but the disability community in general. He served as the Chair of Achieva’s most recent Capital Campaign that raised in excess of $8 million dollars for innovative programs and greening improvements. Read more.