The 1997 Carnegie Centennial Awards

by Mark Petruzzini

The award winners with Director Apt of Carnegie Museum of Natural History.  From the left:  Kevin Auses,  Mara Coffman,  Director Apt,  Timothy McKenzie,  and Brandon Lawson.
Carnegie Centennial Awards are given to young people ages 15 to 25 who show outstanding leadership and dedication to community programs. As a philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie noted that people who devote themselves to the good of the community were among society's most valuable citizens, and his own gifts of free public libraries and his Hero Awards emphasized the values of self-improvement and self-sacrifice for the good of others. The Carnegie Centennial Awards are made in that spirit of devotion to improving the lives of others through the arts and sciences. The names of award winners and sponsors appear on a plaque in the main corridor of the Carnegie Museums in Oakland.

The candidates must be nominated by a non-profit organization in Allegheny County which sponsors volunteer efforts. Each winner receives a $250 cash award, a guest pass to the museums, and a model of either Shakespeare, Bach, Michelangelo, or Galileo, symbolizing Literature, Music, Art, or Science, accordingly. The nominating organization also receives $250 and gets its choice of a free day at one of the Carnegie Museums facilities. Here are the 1997 winners: 

"This award has taught me that individuals really can make a difference,"  said science winner Timothy McKenzie.  He added, "You don't know what this means to my self-esteem."

Science-Timothy McKenzie 

Sixteen-year-old Timothy helps East Liberty become a better place to live. In the spring of 1996 he took the initiative to plant vegetables and flowers in his neighborhood. He also worked closely with the Picket Fence Program, a Pittsburgh neighborhood clean-up effort, and the volunteer organization Operation Hammer, a youth program that teaches public safety and crime prevention. Timothy continues to help kids with reading, writing, and artwork and helps with the breakfast and lunch programs at the East Liberty Community Center. Recently, he served food to senior citizens by participating in the "National Night Out." Over 150 younger children who participate in the community's "Unity Nights" every other Saturday at the community center benefit from Timothy's guidance and support. Tim was nominated by the director of the East Liberty Concerned Citizens' Corporation, Ora Lee Carroll.

Art-Brandon Lawson 

Brandon graduated from Letsche Alternative School in the Hill District this year, after having made a memorable outdoor mural. His brightly colored mural of a train is painted on the outside wall of Letsche School's Center for Family Excellence Childcare Center. This space, where there was once graffiti on the walls , is now being used for children to play. Brandon's son attended the Center, and the child's mother was also enrolled in Letsche to complete her education for a high school diploma. His mural enlivened the exterior of the building, but more importantly, it sent a message that there are people in the community who are getting involved. Lawson's mural was not only important to Letsche, but also for the Bedford Dwellings First Step Initiative, a program that encourages young people like Lawson to volunteer in the community. 

Brandon was nominated by Beverly J. Walker, program coordinator for the First Steps Initiative, who describes him as a polite student, an attentive and responsible father, and a positive role model for other teen fathers; she believes that his artwork will affect future generations of young people.

Literature-Kevin Auses

Seventeen-year-old Kevin doesn't relish being in the spotlight. Ever since he became involved with St. Joseph's High School Drama Department in seventh grade, he was content to work behind the scenes. In September, his last two years as a producer culminated in An Evening of One Acts. As a senior familiar with all aspects of what it takes to put on a show, Kevin wanted the opportunity to show what he learned during his years at his Natrona Heights school. An Evening of One Acts is a show of six one act plays completely run by students in the roles of directors and actors. The play opened to the public only a month after the start of the school year. Auses wants to bring these short plays to local elementary schools where he hopes to inspire younger kids' interest in drama by showing them the power of creative thinking. Kevin was nominated by John J. Carosella, drama director at St. Joseph's High School.

Music-Mara Coffman

Eighteen-year-old Mara has numerous credits to her name: a pianist with the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra, graduating valedictorian of her senior class, Pittsburgh Post Gazette's All-Star Achiever, Instrumentalist Magazine's Outstanding Musician award, and the President's Award for Educational Excellence. But what Mara's Riverview High School peers will probably most remember about her is the concert she and several other young people put on for the school. Mara organized the recital herself as kind of musical "thank you" to Riverside. The three other musicians she performed with were young people at the City Music Center at Duquesne University. The recital included selections from Bach, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Arensky, and Millhaud. Were these odd selections for an age group so engrossed with rap, rock, and techno? Perhaps. But one of Mara's objectives was to show her peers what classical music meant to her, and judging by the standing ovation at the end of her show, it seems they understood. Mara was nominated by the managing director of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra, Willa Moriarty.

For more information about the Carnegie Centennial Awards, contact Rachel Meyers at (412) 622-3335.

Mark Petruzzini is electronic editor of Carnegie Magazine.

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