| Neighborhoods

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

North Primary School student receives Title I distinction for reading improvement

Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Luke Emmerling, a 3rd grader at Kiski Area North Primary School, poses for a portrait in his Allegheny Township home with his Title I Distinguished Student medal and his golden retriever, Rusty, on Tuesday, May 6, 2014.
By Emily Balser
Monday, May 12, 2014, 12:51 a.m.

Luke Emmerling has made so much improvement with his reading this year that he won a statewide award, but it still isn't his favorite subject.

That, he said, is math. Even if reading isn't his favorite subject, it doesn't stop him from trying, which is what led him to be awarded the 2014 Distinguished Title I Student Award.

Luke was one of three students in Pennsylvania to earn the award.

Title I is a federal program based on the school's free and reduced lunch program. Students are evaluated, and those who need extra help in reading can receive it from Title I reading specialists.

Luke, 9, a third-grade student in North Primary School in Allegheny Township, said he was “pretty happy” to receive the award. His mother, Amy Emmerling, 51, describes him as humble about the whole thing.

“He is very low-key about it,” she said. “He didn't want any attention.”

Luke was chosen as a Title I Distinguished Student based on a nomination from the school and an interview with a state representative for Title I.

Luke's father, Mark Emmerling, 52, said he and his wife are proud of their son and how far he's come.

“He's had problems in the past with reading,” Mark said. “We know how hard he works, and we know how much he loves school.”

Reading isn't the only obstacle Luke has had to overcome.

When he was 3 years old, he became tangled in a vertical blind cord while playing in the family's home. He was in a coma for three weeks following the accident, but has had no lingering injury as a result.

Knowing how lucky they are that Luke is able to be here and live a normal life is something his father said makes moments like winning the award that much better.

“We're always thinking about how lucky we are that he's still with us,” Mark said. “We're so grateful and excited that he's finding some success.”

Luke received the award in a ceremony on April 28 during the Pennsylvania Association of Federal Program Coordinators annual conference in Seven Springs Resort.

Luke gave a speech about reading and received a medal, a Nook e-reader and several books.

His favorite books are about history, animals and baseball. He's using one of the books he received on baseball player Roberto Clemente to do a project for class.

“We put a lot of time into school work, and he does work really hard,” his mother said. “I was excited for him because I think it boosts his confidence in reading.”

Amy said she reads to Luke every night and then gives him a turn to read to her. It's something Luke says he enjoys.

Help in school crucial

His parents attribute a lot of Luke's reading improvement to his teachers and reading specialists.

Amy said that during this school year, he has improved from being a first-grade level reader to almost a third-grade level reader.

“He's really worked hard to catch up, and he's had great support,” she said.

Anne Wilkins, a reading specialist at North Primary School, has worked with Luke since he has been in the Title I program. Wilkins was very proud of Luke when his award was announced because she knows how hard he has worked to improve his reading.

“The feeling is just indescribable, really, to see the growth in this kid,” she said.

Wilkins attended the award ceremony and heard Luke's speech.

“It just brings tears to my eyes,” she said.

Luke said giving the speech in front of so many people made him nervous, but he thinks he did pretty well.

“I was feeling smart and a little bit nervous,” Luke said.

Wilkins said that after this year, Luke will no longer be in Title I because it is only offered through third grade at North Primary School. But she's confident that he has gained the skills he needs to move forward.

“He's kind of like our little bird, that he can now fly and be able to do this on his own,” Wilkins said.

Emily Balser is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-7710 or



Show commenting policy

Most-Read AlleKiski Valley

  1. Bell Township museum delighted to receive WWI uniform of prominent native son
  2. New Kensington residents vent anger at council meeting
  3. New Allegheny Valley Joint Sewage Authority manager welcomes challenge
  4. Principals question role of test scores in new evaluation process
  5. Labor United Celebration draws 25,000 to Northmoreland Park
  6. New Ken-Arnold board asked to mediate between football groups
  7. Drownings surge in Pennsylvania over past 2 years
  8. End in sight for Route 28 construction
  9. 3 wrecks Saturday keep emergency responders busy
  10. TCS transcends small beginnings
  11. Harrison rejects criticism of disorderly conduct ordinance
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.